R.C.I.A. ‘JOURNEY IN FAITH’ – (Cheltenham Deanery communities)

Welcome to the Journey in Faith - otherwise often known as 'RCIA", for the Cheltenham Deanery.


RCIA are the initials for the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults. This refers to a number of liturgical rites, which mark various stages in the journey in faith. Each of these stages has a panel below for you to explore. You may be at any point on this journey - RCIA is for you. Life time Catholics (baptised as infants, perhaps receiving the sacraments in youth and continually since then) are still welcome to join the journey, as are those who are simply curious about the Catholic church, its faith, and where do they fit in?

Please have a look at the information on each stage, and decide where you feel you might begin. It is important to note that this journey in faith is likely to take several years - this is not a one year course at the end of which you pass or fail and become (or not) a Catholic. It is also quite likely, if you have read this far, that you have spent several years journeying and now want to explore this faith more deeply.

RCIA Stages

Enquiry is a time of discovery - and for many takes quite some time. You might be a baptised Christian, and are attracted to how catholics live their faith, or you might perhaps be married or engaged with a catholic and wish to consider sharing in their journey - even if you are sure you do not want to become catholic yourself. Others might not be christian (i.e. are not baptised) and are searching for a spiritual home. However you describe yourself - your enquiry into the catholic faith is welcome, and we will try to answer your questions. Each year in cheltenham we have a number of sessions, mainly in Lent and Advent (the time of several weeks preparation before Easter and Christmas). These have visiting speakers, talking about the human search for God, Who is Jesus, etc. The Diocese also has numerous meetings, many of which are on line, and you are encouraged to seek these out. Again, they are advertised on the St Gregorys Parish website. We are now recording most of these, so if you have missed them you can catch up - but we would love to invite you to discussions based on these sessions. Dates for these discussions will be made available from October through to early December, and we would expect you to attend these - although they are not compulsory.

RCIA - Rite of Acceptance

After their initial period of enquiry, some people may feel they wish to become a Catholic, although they may not feel ready or able to be a full member of the Catholic Church just yet. They will have accepted the way of Jesus Christ but are not necessarily ready or willing to believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches. After a discussion with your Parish Priest, you may be invited to take part in the Rite of Acceptance. The Rite of Acceptance is usually celebrated on a Sunday shortly before Christmas and marks your end of the pre-catechumenate phase.

The Catechumenate

This is the time of the journey of Faith that most resembles a course - in that there is a commitment to attend the 9 scheduled evening meetings. It is normal to expect that you will also attend Mass weekly and we hope that you might begin to take an active part in parish life - from coffee after Mass to singing in a choir - there are many ways that you might do this. The meetings will be on Thursdays between Christmas and the start of Lent - so there are about one every week - and take a common format:
  • Reading and preparing beforehand (resources will be located on the website)
  • Opening Prayers
  • After a welcoming drink, a short talk, sometimes this might be a video.
  • Discussions - prompted by questions from the leader.
  • Sugestions for reading and preparing for next time.
  • Closing Prayers

Sponsors (God Parents)

God-Parents are already confirmed Catholics, who travel with you on your journey of faith. They will also need to attend the meetings in the catechumenate phase, and you should have already identified them while in your enquiry phase. They are often people who themselves have in recent years travelled the same RCIA journey. They may also be catholic friends of yours, your spouse or parents. Their purpose is to help you in discussion to explore the topics that are presented to you at each of the meetings. Later at the RCIA Rite of Election, they testify to your readiness to be confirmed in the Catholic Faith.

RCIA Rite of Election

Every year the Bishop invites those on this journey of faith to attend a Rite of Election at the Cathedral in Bristol. This is usually on the first Saturday of Lent, and should not be missed. Before you are invited, you will need to have a conversation with the RCIA leader and/or your Parish Priest, to help you decide if this is the right path for you, at this time. There is no harm in deciding to defer for a year, if you do not feel confident yet. This rite marks the end of your catechumenate and you become one of the elect.

The Elect

For the few short weeks of Lent, you are a member of the Elect. There are rites to be celebrated in your Parish on Sunday Masses called Scrutinies which sounds worse than it is! Really this is a time of prayerful preparation for you, and your Parish community needs to know that you are thinking of joining them and they will pray for you at the scrutinies.


Lent is a time of special preparation and reflection on baptism not only for our candidates but also for all Catholics throughout the world. Three special rites, called Scrutinies, are celebrated in the run up to Easter, during which the elect are called to experience the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in their own lives, and to scrutinize their lives in light of the Gospel. It is a joyful season of growth. Each week of Lent has another Thursday evening session, at which you will learn about some of the more particular aspects of life as a Catholic - for example how the Liturgical year is organised and what the components of a church are for. But perhaps most importantly the aspect of building your prayer life. We will offer, and highly recommend, a day retreat for you during this time. During this time you decide if you wish to proceed to the next step - that of initiation into the Catholic church.

RCIA - The Rites of Initiation

After sunset on the eve of Easter Sunday, your parish gathers at the Church for the Easter Vigil. We celebrate Christ’s giving light to the world through his resurrection from death, we hear proclaimed the story of our salvation through several scripture readings. Those who are ready are baptised (if they have not previously been baptised) and confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time. It is the most important and most joyous celebration in the whole Church year.

Mystagogia - the journey in faith continues

Your reception into the Catholic church at Easter is not the end - indeed in many ways although in important step this is just the beginning. The fourth stage of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is called “mystagogy,” from the Greek words meaning “to lead through the mysteries.” Traditionally, mystagogy extends throughout the Easter season until the feast of Pentecost. This is a period of accompaniment for new Catholics as they discover what it means to fully participate in the sacramental mysteries of the Church.


The newly baptized are called “neophytes,” from the Greek words meaning “new plant,” because the faith has been newly planted in them. Even though their catechetical preparation has been completed, they still have much to learn about what it means to live as Catholic Christians. During Mystagogy, new Catholics will reflect on their experience of conversion, learn more about the Church, and consider how they might get involved in ministry and outreach. Neophytes will need the ongoing support of the community so that the faith newly planted in them can grow deep roots. In Cheltenham this will take the form of attending talks and discussion groups - the same discussion groups as next year's enquirers attend. You may have some of the answers now, and you are likely to hear new questions that you had not thought of yourself. A Life in Faith is full of questions and seeking for answers.

RCIA meetings – further readings and media


22/02/2024 The Community of the Church
29/02/2024 The Holy Spirit
03/03/2024 Scrutinies at 09:30 Mass
07/03/2024 Sacramanets of initiation
14/03/2024 The Eucharist
21/03/2024 The Easter Tridum – Liturgy
28/03/2024 Mass of the Last Supper - Washing of Feet
30/03/2024 Easter Vigil – Rites of Baptism and Confirmation
31/03/2024 Easter Sunday