How does one become a Catholic?
Side note: Although
we have provided a table of contents with hyperlinks
to specific areas of interest, it is recommended that
take the time to read the whole article which follows.
Table of contents
are several ways. The Catholic church warmly welcomes
new members and tries to provide appropriate spiritual
formation according to each person's needs. In general,
though, people who are becoming Catholic fall into
and young children
who, whether baptized or unbaptized, have had little
or no affiliation with or religious training in
the Christian faith, and
- baptized people who have been active members in
other Christian denominations.
and Young Children
Children who are born or adopted
into Catholic families usually are baptized as infants,
a practice that began early in the Church's history.
This makes sense because the children will be raised
in a Christian environment, learning the ways of
faith from their parents and other family members
and eventually receiving formal religious training
through their parish school or religious education
program. For the same reason, children whose parents
enter the Catholic Church before the children have
reached school age also are baptized.
with Little or No Christian Background
Many adults who wish to join the
Catholic Church have never been baptized. The Church
offers unbaptized adults a process of formation in
the Catholic Christian faith and way of life called
Christian Initiation, or catechumenate. Christian
Initiation is a gradual process; it begins somewhat
formally. After the interested person contacts the
local Catholic Church, he or she may be invited to
meet with other people who are exploring the possibility
of becoming Catholic. These people have the opportunity
to ask questions about the Church and to hear about
the message of Jesus Christ and how it is lived out
in the Catholic Church. A person may continue to
participate in these sessions as long as he or she
wishes. No commitments are made or expected during
If the person decides to pursue
the process of becoming Catholic, he or she enters
the catechumenate; unbaptized persons in the catechumenate
are called catechumens. The catechumenate provides
a structure for the proclamation of the gospel; catechesis
(the passing on of the teachings of the Church);
public and private prayer; spiritual direction; the
observance of the feasts, fasts, Sundays and seasons
of the Church calendar; direct contact with members
of the parish community and participation in the
work of the Church for justice and peace. During
this time, each catechumen is paired with a sponsor
who can serve as a spiritual companion and offer
support and encouragement.
Though the various rites of the
catechumenate, the Church marks a person's journey
to full membership. These rites reflect his or her
spiritual growth and the community's loving concern.
The climax of the catechumenate process is the celebration
of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharistic
usually at the Easter Vigil, followed by a period
for reflection on the sacraments and for integration
into the life and mission of the Church. From the
time an unbaptized person becomes a catechumen until
that person celebrates the sacraments of Initiation
(Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) usually takes
at least one year. This allows the catechumen to
experience one full cycle of the Church's rhythm
of feasts and seasons.
Baptized adults who have never
been formed in the Christian life also participate
the catechumenate process. As they prepare for acceptance
into the Catholic Church, they are known as candidates
rather than catechumens. Even though the process
is the same, the Catholic Church takes care to respect
the fact that these people truly are baptized. Only
when there is a good reason to doubt that the person's
Baptism took place or was celebrated validly -- a
rare occurrence -- will such a person be baptized
before entering the Catholic Church. Baptized persons
are received into the Catholic Church, when they
are ready, by making a profession of faith, receiving
the sacrament of Confirmation and sharing in the
Children who have reached school
age, whether they are baptized or unbaptized, will
participate in the catechumenate process adapted
according to their age.
People Who Are Active Christians
People who have been active members
of other Christian denominations seek membership
in the Catholic Church for many reasons. Often they
are attracted by the Church's liturgies or by its
stance on issues dealing with life or on issues dealing
with justice and peace. Sometimes they are married
or engaged to a Catholic. A person who has been an
active Christian, who attempts to live in a way congruent
with the teachings of Christ, who has actively participated
in the worship and life of a Christian community
can bring a lot to the (RCIA) Rite of Christian Initiation
for Adults program. This is the program used in most,
if not all, Catholic parishes as a starting point
for becoming a Catholic. Such a person needs an understanding
of Catholic beliefs, the experience of participating
in the Church's liturgical life over an appropriate
period of time and an acquaintance with the Catholic
community to be able to make a lasting commitment
to the Catholic Church. Some, who are already Christians
from another Protestant denomination, may feel like
they are being treated like new Christians. Why does
the Church have a program like this? Because when
the Church receives new members who wish to become
Catholic Christians, they have no idea what previous
religious Christian instruction and education they have, and, moreover, which misperceptions or misunderstandings
they have received about the Church and what she
teaches from the past. This program, properly administered,
ensures that the new convert receives the fullness
of the Christian Faith that can only be found in
the Church. Each person's situation should be evaluated
and his or her needs met in an appropriate way. When
the time is right, such a person may be received
into the Catholic Church at any time of the year.
This is accomplished by the person making a profession
of faith and celebrating the sacraments of Confirmation
and Eucharist, usually at a Sunday parish Mass. (Even
if the person has been confirmed in another Christian
denomination, the sacrament of Confirmation is almost
is the First Step?
Anyone who is thinking about becoming
a Catholic Christian or who would like more information
can contact the nearest Catholic parish. Meeting
with the pastor or another member of the parish's
pastoral staff ordinarily is the first step in the
journey toward becoming a Catholic.
initiation: the process and periods
- Period of Inquiry
- Acceptance into the Order
- Period of the Catechumenate
- Election or Enrollment
- Period of Purification
- Sacraments of Initiation
- Period of Mystagogy
- Period of Inquiry.
is a time of introduction to the gospel of Jesus
Christ and a time of reflection on one's own life
in the light of the values of the reign of God.
It is an unstructured time of no fixed duration
for questions and an opportunity of the beginnings
of Christian faith to form.
- Acceptance into the Order
- In this liturgical rite,
those who wish to become catechumens publicly
express their desire to follow the way of Jesus.
The Church accepts their intention and welcomes
them into the household of Faith as catechumens.
- Period of the Catechumenate.
with the whole community, catechumens celebrate
the liturgy of the word at Mass each Sunday.
After the homily, the catechumens and their catechists
(teachers) continue to study and ponder the Scriptures
and the teachings of the Church. During this
time, catechumens receive anointings, participate
in prayers of exorcism and blessing, and take
part in the mission of the Church to the world.
Through prayer, learning and coming to know other
Catholic Christians, catechumens discover the
love and power of God in their lives and in the
- Election or Enrollment
- At this liturgical rite, usually
celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent in the
cathedral of the diocese, the bishop formally
acknowledges the readiness of the catechumens
and calls them to the sacraments of initiation.
The catechumens respond by expressing their desire
for these sacraments. From this time, until they
are baptized, they are called the elect.
- Period of Purification
- This time of intense
preparation for initiation usually coincides
with Lent. During this period, the elect and
the parish community together focus on conversion,
scrutinize their lives in light of the gospel
and celebrate the presentations of the Creed
and Lord's Prayer.
- Sacraments of Initiation.
elect become full members of the Body of Christ,
the Church, through the celebration of the sacraments
of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, usually
at the Easter Vigil. From this time until the end
of the period of mystagogy, they are known as neophytes, new
- Period of Mystagogy.
the fifty-day season of Easter, neophytes ponder
the experience and meaning of the sacraments and
participate with the faithful in the Eucharistic
life of the Church and its mission for justice
and peace. Formation and teaching continue for
one year to help the neophytes become incorporated
into the full life of the Christian community.