Order of Christian Initiation
of Adults (OCIA)
Since the Second Vatican Council decreed the restoration, revision and
adaptation of the catechumenate, this ancient practice of the Church, has become the process through which we welcome adult converts into the Catholic Church.
The OCIA process is also used to welcome and prepare those adults seeking full communion within the Catholic Church (baptized Christians but not Catholics) as well adult Catholics seeking Confirmation.
For more information and/or questions about the OCIA process here at the Casa:
How is OCIA Structured?
It begins with a period of inquiry in which those seeking a faith community are warmly welcomed by the faith community and are invited to “Come and See” what our Christian Faith and Roman Catholic Religious Tradition are all about. More specifically, they are invited to inquire about becoming fully initiated members of the Catholic Church. If these inquirers accept the invitation to continue, they immediately move into the next period of formal catechesis and become candidates (if they have already been validly baptized) or catechumens (if they are un-baptized). Note that there is no academic calendar determining when one begins formal catechesis. They begin when they come forward, no matter what time of year.
The period of formal catechesis could take years (depending on the individual’s readiness), but usually takes about one year. When the candidates and catechumens are ready, they move into the third period of purification and
enlightenment during Lent. “Readiness” is ultimately at the discretion of the pastor (or Rector in our case), but it is the faith community who journeys with the candidates and catechumens and accepts them into the different periods. The community does not just support the candidates and catechumens, but is expected to engage themselves into the lives of those who are seeking membership. In other words, the faith community as a whole initiates.
At the Easter Vigil, the candidates celebrate Confirmation and First Eucharist. The catechumens celebrate all three sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist in that order). Once all are fully initiated, the
neophytes (Greek word meaning “newly planted”) then immediately enter into the final period of mystagogy (another Greek word meaning “grasping the Mystery of God”), which extends throughout the Easter season and into the rest of their lives (all the fully initiated are constantly grasping the Mystery of God ever more deeply).
The whole process is intertwined with the public work of the faith community (i.e. liturgies, feast days, communal events, prayer services, outreach, retreats, etc.). In other words, the OCIA process coincides with the total “life of the faith community.” As Andre Aubrey writes, “In effect, the catechumenate is not a school, but an initiation. The school has some students who learn a lesson, initiation has some disciples who discover a life.”
In a typical OCIA process, the candidates and catechumens together with an OCIA team (consisting of community members), attend Sunday Mass for the Liturgy of the Word and are dismissed before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. They gather together to break open the Word and draw out from it our Catholic Doctrine & Tradition (all Catholic Tradition is rooted in Scripture). This is called Lectionary-based catechesis. It is catechesis that draws from the lectionary readings as it unfolds the story of who we are. However, currently at the Casa, these Breaking Open the Word sessions resemble more of a reflection on the readings than a lectionary-based catechetical session. The group gathers again on Thursday nights for the aforementioned instruction.
Throughout the whole process, there are different Rites that are celebrated at weekend Liturgies in order to mark the different stages of catechesis and conversion and in order to allow the community to continue their journey with them and to be witnesses to the Faith. The final Rites being, of course, the Rites of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) are celebrated at the Easter Vigil.