The Second Vatican Council reinstated what was referred to in the early Church as the “catechumenate,” a process of initiation for adults that culminates in baptism.
Initially this was called in English by the acronym RCIA, standing for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is composed of five distinct periods (evangelization, precatechumenate, catechumenate, purification and enlightenment, and mystagogy), marking the progress of an adult converting to the Catholic faith.
However, in November 2021, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new translation of the name of this process, now calling it OCIA, the “Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.
While it may seem like a small change, many see this as a new turning point.
According to Meloy for the Detroit Catholic, “rites are still part of the order but the new structure is meant to invite candidates and catechumens into a continuous process of spiritual formation as opposed to fixed checkpoints on the path to baptism, first Communion and confirmation.”
Furthermore, “by making the entire process an ‘order,’ the candidate or catechumen understands the rites received in church or at the parish are just one part of the ongoing journey of discipleship that will culminate with baptism and confirmation — usually during the Easter Vigil — but will continue throughout their lives.”
The new name emphasizes that the process to become Catholic should not be rushed, and can be entered at any time.
While most converts enter the Church at the Easter Vigil, this new structure acknowledges that converts could be baptized or welcomed into the Church at any point in the year, even taking multiple years before making the final decision.
Becoming a Catholic involves a period of intense discernment, and prayer, not simply going through the “rites” at fixed points of the year.
Practically speaking, parishes will be adjusting to this new term over the next few years, phasing out the term RCIA and switching over to the use of the term OCIA.