OCIA – Becoming Catholic

What is OCIA?

OCIA (formerly RCIA) stands for Order of Christian Initiation of Adults and is the process of inquiry and learning and prayer in order to learn how to become disciples of Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church.

If you are interested in OCIA or want to learn more about the Catholic Church and its beliefs and practices, or just have questions, please come to our informal inquiry / Q&A sessions entitled Come & See.

If you are interested in participating, please email Paul Ambro at paul@sthelenchurch.org

2024 Come & See schedule (all sessions start at 7pm in the church parlor):

  • Wed, Jan 17, 2024
  • Wed, Feb 21, 2024
  • Wed, Mar 20, 2024
  • Wed, Apr 17, 2024
  • Wed, May 15, 2024
  • Wed, Jun 19, 2024
  • Wed, July 24, 2024
  • Sun, Oct 20, 2024
  • Sun, Nov 17, 2024

After Inquiry, weekly kerygma and catechesis sessions usually start in August and go through the Easter season. Please refer to schedule information here. For more information or any questions please contact Paul Ambro at paul@sthelenchurch.org.

Who is OCIA For?

  • Un-baptized adults (or baptized in non-Trinitarian manner such as LDS, Jehovah’s Witness, etc.) interested in entering the Catholic Church, thru Baptism, Confirmation, and 1st Holy Communion.
  • Adults baptized in another non-Catholic Christian community, with water in the Trinitarian formula who want to become Catholic or learn more about the Catholic faith.
  • Adults baptized as Catholic who are not catechized, and want to complete both of their remaining sacraments of initiation (Confirmation and 1st Holy Communion). If you only are needing Confirmation, please go here: https://www.sthelenchurch.org/home/adult-confirmation/

What are the phases of OCIA?

1) Inquiry (Pre-Catechumenate): Searching

During this preliminary period, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss your journey and interest in the Catholic faith and ask questions. We’ll have weekly sessions where we will provide some fundamental understanding of the good news. This is a discernment process where you can decide if you want to move forward. This phase concludes with the Rite of Acceptance for Catechumens (those seeking baptism) and the Rite of Welcoming for Candidates (those baptized seeking full communion with the Catholic Church)

2) Catechumenate: Learning the Faith

This is the longest portion of the process and involves lessons and study towards learning about the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church. We’ll meet weekly (with a break for Thanksgiving and a few weeks at Christmas). This phase concludes on the 1st Sunday of Lent with the Rite of Sending (at our parish) and Rite of Election (at a TBD parish with the bishop)

3) Purification & Enlightenment: Preparing the Heart

This stage occurs during the 40-day season of Lent. The purpose of this phase is to listen to the call of conversion and a time for deeper prayer and more intense reflection as you prepare to enter the Church. During this time, there will be three liturgical rites called “Scrutinies” intended for special purification. This period culminates in the Easter Vigil for those who are not baptized, receiving the three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Eucharist. Those already baptized but entering into full communion with the Catholic Church will receive Confirmation and Eucharist on the Sunday following Easter, called Divine Mercy Sunday.

4) Mystagogy: Entering Deeper

This final phase is meant to bring the “neophyte” closer to the parish community and deeper into the mystery of the liturgy and mission of the Church.

Schedule of Classes and Rites

OCIA sessions will be held on Wednesday evenings 7:15 – 9pm in Braden Center here at our church. Initial sessions begin usually around the end of August with the Inquiry phase and complete during the Easter season with the Mystagogy phase. A detailed calendar can be found here.

For more details on classes and rites and events during the OCIA process please contact Paul Ambro at paul@sthelenchurch.org.


Birth or Baptism Certificates:

  • If you are not yet baptized we will need a copy of your birth certificate.
  • If you are baptized in another Christian community please provide a certificate or some other record of your baptism.
  • If you are baptized Catholic, contact the parish you were baptized in and ask them for a new copy of your baptismal certificate. We need one that is less than six months old.

Sponsors: Part of the process involves being accompanied by a Sponsor. They are to mentor, accompany, and pray for you. They are to be a good role model and example of Catholic Christian life and discipleship in Jesus.​ If you know someone, ask them as soon as possible. If you don’t know of anyone, let us know and we’ll assign you one. Below are requirements for being a Sponsor:

  • Received the three sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, & Confirmation)​
  • Be at least 18 years of age.​ and is not your spouse or parent.​
  • Participate regularly in Sunday Mass and give witness to their faith in Christ Jesus​
  • Believe all that the Catholic Church professes and teaches and truly make an effort to incorporate these teachings into their daily lives​
  • Willingly assume responsibility to be a good role model for the person they are sponsoring by their life of prayer and by their Catholic example​
  • If married, be validly married according to the laws of the Catholic Church.
  • If single, is living a Christian life in accordance with God’s design for our sexuality (e.g. not cohabitating)​

Commitment: There is no pressure and you may decide to drop out at any time. However, we do ask that if you decide to commit yourself to the process that you devote yourself to dependable class attendance as well as dedication to study and prayer.

Marital Status: The church teaches and professes as received from Christ that marriage is indissoluble and lifelong. It also asks that baptized Catholics be married in the Catholic Church. We’ll work with you on anything in this regard such as annulments and convalidations. Please see here for more info: OCIA and Marital Status

What are the Sacraments of Initiation?

Becoming a fully initiated Catholic includes receiving in faith the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion.

Effects of the Sacrament of Baptism:

  • Takes away original sin, all personal sins and all punishment due to sin.
  • Makes the baptized person a participant in the divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace, the grace of justification which incorporates one into Christ and into his Church.
  • Gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ and provides the basis for communion with all Christians.
  • Bestows the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • Marks us with the indelible seal of Christ (character).

Effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation:

  • A special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost which impresses on the soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace of Baptism.
  • Roots the recipient more deeply in divine sonship, binds him more firmly to Christ and to the Church
  • Reinvigorates the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our soul.
  • Gives a special strength to witness to the Christian faith.

Effects of the Sacrament of Holy Communion (Eucharist):

  • In receiving Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, it makes us intimately united to Christ.
  • Preserves and renews the life of grace received in Baptism and Confirmation.
  • Separates from our sinfulness and wipes away venial sins.
  • Deepens our incorporation into the Church.

Serve in OCIA

Ever considered helping with OCIA?

Do you love our Catholic faith & want to share that love with others?  Please prayerfully consider whether God might be calling YOU to volunteer your time and talent in service of our OCIA participants.  We would be grateful for help in any of the following capacities:

  • Inquiry Facilitator (get to know our OCIA participants and help with leading discussions around the good news about Jesus)
  • Catechist (help with leading classes learning about the Catholic faith)
  • Breaking Open the Word (help facilitate discussion on the Sunday scripture readings in the church parlor for the 9 am Masses)
  • Snacks & Refreshments (bring goodies to the OCIA sessions)
  • Sponsor (an active member of St. Helen’s parish or other nearby parish is paired with a candidate & walks the OCIA journey with them)
  • Prayer Team (sign up to devote your daily prayer to a specific OCIA participant)

Have questions about how you can help?  Email Paul Ambro at paul@sthelenchurch.org