For those of us sitting in the pews, Easter seems to conclude the work of RCIA participants. For several months, we had seen them gather for blessings and instructions at Mass; attending the Easter Vigil, we witness them receiving the sacraments of initiation. The process seems complete.
In fact, RCIA does not end at Easter; its participants continue to work together for nearly two months to deepen their understanding of the faith and to strengthen their connections to each other.
RCIA, or the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, begins classes in September and continues through the end of May. The subjects of these classes range from a review of the Triduum to an overview of church etiquette. Much of the time is spent in an examination of each participant’s personal experience of the sacraments.
Each one had different reasons for entering into the RCIA. Some are new Catholics, but others had been baptized Catholics who needed to complete their sacraments of initiation by making their First Eucharist and Confirmation. In many cases, these are engaged persons looking to complete their initiation in anticipation of celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony. Others are teens preparing for their confirmation alongside their peers, but for some reason, they had never made their First Eucharist; these attend both RCIA classes and confirmation classes, and while they are confirmed with their RCIA classmates, they still join their peers at the Confirmation Rite and receive a special blessing. With all of these differences, the individual experience of the sacraments varies substantially. Through discussion in the continuing RCIA classes, they make it a shared experience.
During the final session, a presentation is made in which all are invited to become active members of the parish by joining a Ministry. A wide range of possibilities is given, and although the selection of a Ministry is not mandatory, many do participate.
Even when formal study ends, informal connections do not. For example, when program facilitators see their former participants at Mass, they stop to visit with them in the Narthex. Part of the job of the RCIA is to welcome new members into the community, and that part never truly ends.