Coming into “full communion” with the Catholic Church is an absolutely beautiful experience. It is one that a candidate should never take lightly and should fully understand what they are doing and why.
Here are the steps you take to join.
Note: there are several paths you may follow depending on whether or not you have been previously baptized in the Catholic Church.
Find a parish – Hopefully you will have a local parish nearby. If you are unaware of where a Catholic parish is in your area, search Google or MassTimes. Most parishes have their mass times posted online.
Contact the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Coordinator – Call the church office and get in touch with their RCIA Coordinator. He or she will more than likely want to meet with you to talk about your background, as well as go over the process to come into the church at Easter Vigil.
Attend RCIA – For children at the age of reason (age 7) and for adults, the Catholic Church has a very well-established RCIA program. RCIA is designed to teach the basics of the Catholic faith to new Christians as well as those who are converting from a non-Catholic background. If you have already been initiated into the church, you do not have to attend RCIA. Even if you have not yet made up your mind whether or not you are going to come into the church, you can still attend RCIA to gain more knowledge about the faith.
There are 5 stages of the RCIA process:
Inquiry – this is the initial period where you are asking questions, figuring everything out, and determining whether or not you are ready to commit.
Catechumanate – period after you have made the decision to enter the church and are being “catechized” about the faith, or learning all of the basic points of the Catholic Church. You will attend regular RCIA meetings to discuss readings for the week, as well as major points in the Catholic faith. You will attend, learn, and grow all the way until Easter Vigil.
Purification and Preparation – Your sponsor and the Church will help you along your path to the day you are received into the church during Lent.
Initiation – this marks the time when you are received into the church and will receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist). For those who have previously been baptized, you will not be baptized again.
Mystagogy – a period of reflection after being received at Easter Vigil where you are able to reflect and learn more about the mysteries of the faith.
I was born and raised a Southern Baptist down in the deep south (Georgia, if you haven’t figured that one out by now). I am the son of a retired Southern Baptist preacher and my older brother is still a Southern Baptist preacher. I spent many years playing the piano for a non-denominational Christian church until I moved to Ohio in 2004.
I really didn’t know much about the Catholic faith, nor did I have much desire to, until my wife got me to attend mass with her. It was so foreign to me. There were bits and pieces of things that reminded me of my Baptist background, but there was so much I didn’t know.
The one thing that stuck out to me right off the bat was the amount of scripture readings in each Sunday mass. There wasn’t any of this “look at how well I sing” or “we have a huge congregation” or “our band is awesome.” Don’t get me wrong, being able to use your talents for God is wonderful, but I just began to feel as if the Protestant churches I had been attending emphasized themselves more than God.
What’s so wonderful about the mass is that it is not about our accomplishments – how well we sing, what we wear, how many Sundays in a row we attend Church. The mass focuses on Jesus and His body and blood which we receive every mass in the Eucharist.
My wife and I decided we were going to attend RCIA so we began the long process. We quickly got involved in the weekly RCIA classes, and began to learn more and more about the Catholic faith. By Easter Vigil, 2008, we had come into full communion with the Catholic faith.
Going through RCIA opened my eyes to the many things I thought I knew about the Catholic faith, but I quickly began to realize I was wrong. And those preaching to me from Protestant pulpits were wrong. And my dad was wrong about it. God moved us into the Catholic faith and I am so glad he did. It’s truly the only church He founded and the only one that is traceable back to his time on Earth.
Important!!! Go to mass regularly – Once you are fully in the church, you have only just begun your new life in Christ’s church. Attending mass on a regular basis very important in the continual development of your faith. Meet new people and ask questions. Receive the Eucharist weekly and look for ways to participate and interact with other Catholics.
I hope this brief explanation of the process is helpful if you are considering joining the church. If you have any questions that I may not have answered above, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.