Every Thursday, 8pm C3-1
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is a process that allows non-Catholic adults to embark on a journey to experience God in a very personal way and to gradually undergo a conversion. RCIA is not a church group but a ministry whereby inquirers are introduced to Christ, the Church and its teachings. They are slowly initiated to participate in the liturgical and pastoral life of the Church in Christ.
The programme does not have a beginning nor an end, but rather, it is an ongoing process of faith formation in progressive stages for inquirers, catechumens and elects (as they are called at each stage of their faith journey) with the help of sponsors, catechists, priests, godparents and the whole parish community. Though not directly engaged in the catechetical process, the entire community of believers is involved in welcoming them, showing hospitality to and praying for them.
It is always a joy to see newcomers to the Church. Most of them, if not all, will eventually join the family of God. We are friends and companions who assist the newcomers in our midst to get initiated into the life of the Church.
The RCIA process was first launched at Nativity Church in 1988 by Fr Joseph Jeannequin. During its early days, there were no formal teams of sponsors and facilitators. Cannossian Sr Lily Tan was the first Spiritual Director and she led prayers and sang praises with the aid of a few sponsors. Later, these helpers were sent for training sessions conducted by the RCIA National Team. After Sr Lily, Sr Mary S took on the role of the Spiritual Director and new insights were gained. With God's grace, RCIA is into its 23rd year and blessed with about 40 regular sponsors and facilitators.
The Mandarin RCIA was started by Fr Lu in 1989 with a first batch of 10 inquirers and a similar number of sponsors. It has been active since then. In 2007, the archdiocese implemented the practice of having Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist received by elects at Easter. This is a programme in which lay participation is crucial for its success. Ms Yang Yue Qin, Ms Goh Boon How and Ms Chen Yong Mei have served as the coordinators during these past years. Many inquirers have joined the process and as of April 2012, a total of 268 people have journeyed with the Mandarin RCIA organisers and sponsors, and have committed themselves to the Catholic faith in Baptism.
RCIA sponsors like Ms Goh, ex-principal of Holy Innocent's Primary School, feel immense and indescribable happiness at seeing RCIA participants baptised at Easter. As Ms Goh reveals, some RCIA participants had studied in the Catholic schools in the area, and the seeds of faith that were sown at school had eventually led them to the baptismal font at Easter.
On Easter Sunday, the church choirs would lead parishioners to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus in hymns and songs during the Eucharistic celebrations, and in their homilies, the priests would preach sermons on growth and renewal, endurance and hope, in the face of and following the event of death. The church grounds would once again be a scene of festivity as Nativity Church and its parishioners celebrate Easter with a carnival for everyone to enjoy free food, music and games in a relaxed atmosphere in the company of friends and family.
The week following Easter Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, and at Nativity Church, the priests would remind parishioners particularly of the depth of God's divine mercy in their homilies, as well as the need to practise mercy in our lives. RCIA would then commence for a new batch of inquirers after Easter is celebrated.