The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) names the process by which interested persons gradually become members of the Catholic Church.
The RCIA is primarily a journey. It begins with the first stirrings of faith and curiosity. It may culminate in a life of faith, love, service, and continued spiritual growth lived in communion with Catholics throughout the world.
The RCIA is a communal process and involves a number of stages punctuated by liturgical rites to aid and assist the potential convert toward the final rite at the Easter Vigil at which time they will become full members of the Roman Catholic Church. The entire process takes several months, but participants are invited to proceed at a pace which suits them individually.
The RCIA process was introduced as a result of the Second Vatican Council, where a return to the ancient practice of Christian initiation was viewed as the proper form for the modern world. Prior to Vatican II, Christian initiation had evolved from the ancient practice to the form of individual private instruction with a priest. Although the private process has its merits, the Council wanted to reintroduce the community aspect of the initiation process, as well as liturgical and the other elements contained within the Rite.