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Gary Stevens wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have been a Protestant Christian for my whole life, and have been especially serious about it for the past 20 years. For a number of reasons, I feel led to become a Catholic. I have seen different things online about what this will entail.

  1. Will expectations of me differ greatly from parish to parish?
    i.e., Given that I have been a practicing Christian for so long, will some parishes expect me to take part in lengthy preparations while others might not?
  2. What are your recommendations for what I should try to learn about Catholicism on my own before approaching a parish to ask about joining the faith?
  3. And, finally, are there two or three things I should focus most on in order to fit in quickly?

Thank you so much!

Gary Stevens

  { Do expectations vary among parishes for new Catholics, what do I learn first, and how do I fit in? }

Eric replied:

Gary,

Preparation for reception into the Church may vary slightly from parish to parish even though, to some degree, it is standardized.

  • Have you been baptized?
  1. If not, you will not be able to abbreviate your catechumenate (that's the preparation for Baptism).
  2. If you are baptized, it's generally a bit less formal and sometimes more expedited.
  3. If you are unusually self-taught and can convince the pastor, your entry might be especially expedited. The process is called RCIA It stands for the (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), so when calling a parish, you would say that you want to enroll in RCIA

Generally, receptions and Baptisms are done on the eve of Easter, with classes starting in the Fall. This is strict for catechumens (the unbaptized) but potentially more flexible for baptized Christians. Still, a lot of parishes may opt to not make exceptions. You will likely have to wait until the Fall to start your instruction.

Your second question, on how you can prepare on your own, is to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is the official Roman Catholic summary and guide to our beliefs and if you know it, you will be ahead of the game.

Another form of preparation, if you haven't done it, is to attend Mass (without receiving Communion). This will help you fit in and acclimate.

You may also enjoy reading the stories of other converts, such as:

Eric

Bob replied:

Gary,

That is wonderful!

I’m sure God is really doing great things in your life. Sadly, I can’t say all parishes are just as good as the next, although the sacraments don’t depend on the quality of the (priest|individual). I would do a little research and visit a few local parishes to see and meet the folks there and ask some questions about the community. Becoming a Catholic, in a technical sense, will not vary widely; you will essentially take an RCIA program at any said Parish — inquire about that when you make your rounds. I will pray that you end up right where our Lord wants you.

Your personal study will be key. Get some great resources from good Catholic sources (i.e., Ignatius Press). I recently watched a series on Mary from the Saint Paul Center, that I think is outstanding. It is a (12) twelve part video that explains the Catholic teaching and understanding of Mary while answering Protestant objections and misperceptions about her.

Understanding Mary will be huge, as well as the Papacy, Apostolic succession, and the Sacraments.

I like to think of Acts 2:37-42:

"and they devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles, the communal life, the breaking of the bread and the prayers."

Acts 2:42

as one of the best Scripture references which deals with each area of importance: authority, (community/morality), the sacraments, and devotion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty much organized around that very pattern.

Anything by Dr. Scott Hahn is also good since he is an incredible Scripture scholar, convert from Presbyterianism, and great teacher.

As I suggested earlier, you can check out the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology for that Mary series and other great stuff.

God bless,

Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

Hi, Gary —

Besides what Eric and Bob have recommended, here are a few more suggestions:

(CAR) Catholic Apologetic Resources to defend your Catholic faith:

Web sites that assist beyond basic Catholic Catechesis and help answer common misperceptions, objections, and distortions to the Catholic faith.
   
AskACatholic.com AskACatholic.com Knowledge base
  AskAQuestion Today!
  Our AskACatholic.com Recommended Reading page
  Good Apologetic and Catechesis Sources from my AskACatholic.com Non-Wiki page
   
Catholic Answers: Catholic Answers
  Catholic Answers Forum
   
Jimmy Akin The Nazareth Resource Library
   
Well-known and reliable Catholic Apologists who can help you.
   
Scott Hahn: St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology
Patrick Madrid: Patrick Madrid
  Envoy Magazine
James Akin: The Nazareth Resource Library
  JimmyAkin.org
Tim Staples: Tim Staples, Director of Apologetics and Speaker
Steve Ray: Defenders of the Catholic Faith
Scott Hahn Rome Sweet Home
 
Books by Catholics that will help you defend the faith
Karl Keating
[A MUST READ]
Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians"
Mark Shea By What Authority? an Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition
   
 
Books about converts to the Catholic faith
Patrick Madrid Surprised by Truth: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic
  Surprised By Truth 2: 15 Men and Women Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons For Becoming Catholic.
  Surprised by Truth 3: 10 More Converts Explain the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming Catholic
   
Web sites that provide Catholic Catechetical, Informational, and historical information about the faith.
Catechism of the Catholic Church on-line Catechism of the Catholic Church
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia The New Advent 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia
Catholic-Hierarchy.org Catholic-Hierarchy.org — An excellent resource for the current Catholic hierarchy within the Church down to the diocesan level.
   
Web sites and books on the Early Church Fathers
Web sites BibleBeltCatholics.com
  The Early Church Fathers on New Advent
   
Books Faith of the Early Fathers: Three-Volume Set
by  William A. Jurgens (Translator)
 

The Fathers Know Best by James Akin

   
On-line Catholic stores which provide good material
  San Juan Catholic Seminars
  St. Joseph Communications
  Ignatius Press

Hope this helps,

Mike

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