Becoming Catholic

Welcome! The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process by which people become Catholic.

Are you interested in becoming Catholic or learning more about the Catholic Faith? You are warmly invited to participate in our discernment and sacramental preparation program, which provides an opportunity to learn about the basic teachings of the Catholic Faith, to experience different methods of prayer, to share your faith journey with others, and to prepare to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist (First Communion). The program is facilitated by Matthew Hall (mh968@cornell.edu) and a team of students.


What is RCIA?

The process by which inquirers become Catholic is known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA. This takes place during the academic year, and it culminates with the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist. This takes place during the Easter Vigil or during the Easter Season, the 50-day period between Easter Sunday and Pentecost.

How do I participate?

Please contact Matthew Hall (mh968@cornell.edu) to make an appointment and/or fill out the Sacramental Inquiry Form.

During your initial meeting you will be asked about your interest in the Catholic faith and what sacraments you wish to receive. You will be invited to participate in the RCIA program. This provides an opportunity for you to deepen your relationship with God, to discern your desire to become a fully initiated member of God's Church, and to begin the life-long process of integrating faith into daily life.

What is involved in the program?

The RCIA program takes place during the academic year, beginning in September. Since we are at an academic institution, the program is conducted within the academic calendar as well as the liturgical (church) calendar.

A schedule of optional and required events is distributed at the beginning of the program. You will be invited to:

  • register as a member of the parish

  • to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days (a life-long commitment!)

  • gather for a weekly 90-minute class

  • attend other prayer, service, learning, social events

  • meet periodically with a campus minister and priest

  • choose a sponsor

What's a sponsor?

A sponsor is a confirmed Catholic (someone over the age of 16, other than your parents, who has received the Sacrament of Confirmation) who actively participates in the life of the church and is committed to his or her faith. Your sponsor walks with you on the journey of faith and shares his or her experience of being Catholic with you. Your sponsor also stands with you at the time you receive the sacraments.

What if I am not yet baptized?

You will be invited to explore your desire for Baptism. You will attend our weekly RCIA program and meet periodically with a campus minister. Also you will be invited to become familiar with our parish by attending Mass, and participating in parish programs.

When you decide to seriously prepare for Baptism you may ask to enter the Catechumenate. As a catechumen, you will be considered a serious pilgrim along your journey to the full communion of the Catholic Church, looking forward to celebrating the three Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil—Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.

During your time as a catechumen you will learn about Catholicism, attend Mass every Sunday, meet from time to time with a Campus Minister and your sponsor, participate in a retreat, and explore ways to develop your prayer life. In conversation with the RCIA leadership team, you will discuss the appropriate time to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. These sacraments are ordinarily celebrated at the Easter Vigil, the night before Easter Sunday, or else during the Easter Season.

On the Second Sunday of Lent preceding your initiation into the Church, you will attend the Rite of Election, presided over by the Bishop of Rochester. The bishop receives each catechumen and candidate. Catechumens will be invited to sign the Book of the Elect, signifying that they "have been chosen" for Christ and will be baptized. During Lent you will participate in many rituals, some celebrated at Sunday Mass. The most significant of these are the Three Scrutinies, celebrated at Mass on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. These rituals spiritually purify and strengthen you.

What can I expect after I am baptized?

Following your initiation, you will be encouraged and supported to participate fully in the life of the Church. You will continue on the lifelong journey of deepening your knowledge and love of God and neighbor. You will be invited to participate in social activities, discussion groups, prayer groups, and Christian service projects. You may even sponsor others as they prepare to join the Church.

What if I am already baptized and wish to become Catholic?

You will be invited to explore your desire to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. With the catechumens, you will attend the weekly discussion meeting, deepen your prayer life, and learn about the Catholic faith. If you discern a true desire to join the Church, you will make a public affirmation of faith at the Easter Vigil and be received into the Church. You will then be confirmed and receive the Eucharist with the newly baptized.

I am Catholic, but I was never confirmed. What about me?

Please click here to learn more about the Confirmation Preparation Program.