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How to Convert to Catholicism

Updated on June 21, 2012

Restored Stained Glass Window

A Restored Stained Glass Window from the Julienne Convent, Dayton, OH
A Restored Stained Glass Window from the Julienne Convent, Dayton, OH | Source

I was born on February 18. I was baptized on February 25. I am a cradle Catholic. When I describe myself, my religion is included in the list. I am as much a Catholic as I am blue eyed. It is how I was raised. It is innately who I am.

Although I grew up Catholic and in parochial schools, when I had an opportunity to get out in the world, I have learned more about my faith and other faiths. I have had friends spanning all religions, including Jewish, Methodist, Mormon, Non-Denominational, Hindu and even Atheist. I learned not to judge, but to learn and accept differences. As a result, I enjoy hearing what ‘you believe’. I know what I believe. I have found that there are more similarities than differences in some cases.

Six Steps To Converting to Catholicism

  1. Inquiry
  2. Catechumenate
  3. Rite of Election
  4. Period of Purification
  5. Easter Vigil
  6. Mystagogy

Dating a Non-Catholic

However, when I started dating my husband, religion came into play. When we discussed marriage, my husband, a non-practicing Methodist, was surprised when I insisted that he actively take part in raising our children in the Catholic church. Fortunately, he agreed, and the surprise was all mine when he decided on his own to convert.

We had been engaged about nine months and my husband came to me and asked, “How do you convert to Catholicism?” I told him, “Do not only do this for me. This is a decision you are choosing to make for yourself. You are becoming Catholic. Trust me. There is a process!”

You don’t just call the church and say, “I want to be Catholic.”

There are defined steps that need to be taken.

RCIA or Rite of Christian Initiation For Adults

RCIA is the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. This is a defined process followed by the Catholic Church taking an interested party from the inquiry stages to a full member of the Catholic Church.

Step One: Inquiry or Pre-Catechumenate

During this stage, you express interest in becoming a member of the church. Some parishes interview their candidates to make sure they understand the process and commitment.

A sponsor is chosen. If you have not been baptized, in addition to being a faith role model, your sponsor will be your Godparent. Sponsors must be older than sixteen and a practicing Catholic. Because you admire their faith life, you invite them to join your on your journey. It is recommended that you do not pick spouses or significant others as a sponsors. You and your sponsor will begin attending weekly classes. In many parishes, the Inquiry stage, along with classes begins in the fall of each calendar year.

A Catholic Mass

A Catholic Mass
A Catholic Mass | Source

Rite of Acceptance

Within the Inquiry step is the Rite of Acceptance. This is a formal mass, conducting on a Sunday, often during the months of October- December. During this step, the candidates are officially welcomed by the parish for the first time. The Rite of Acceptance ends the period of Inquiry.

Step Two: Catechumenate

There are two types of candidates. One is a Catechumenate or someone who has never been baptized. The second is a Candidate for Full Communion. This candidate has been baptized, Catholic or another faith, but has not received one or both of the remaining Sacraments of Initiation, First Communion or Confirmation.

During this Catechumenate step, the candidates receive a more formal training in the ways and teachings of the Church. In addition to the weekly classes, the candidates will attend mass as a group, and are dismissed after the homily. While they listen to the Word of God with the congregation, they are dismissed to continue their preparation in order to receive Full Communion in the Church.

Confirmation Names: Learning About The Saints

Saint Card and Medals
Saint Card and Medals | Source

Choosing a Confirmation Name

During the steps of RCIA and prior to the Rite of Election, the candidates will choose Confirmation names. There are not defined rules for selecting a name. It is suggested that your Confirmation name reflect a saint's life that you admire and which to emulate. Catholic saints are canonized by the Church and are venerated for their holy and exemplary lives. Confirmation name selection is an opportunity to learn more about the Saints and their faith lives.

Step Three: Rite of Election

This is the second formal mass for the candidates. The Rite of Election typically occurs on the first Sunday of Lent. Some parishes host a Rite of Sending first. Candidate are then sent to join candidates from other parishes at a larger Rite of Election. During the Rite of Election, each catechumenate writes their name in the Book of the Elect. The mass is often times performed by the Diocesan Bishop. Depending on the size of the diocese, the Rite may be conducted in the Diocese’s cathedral.

Step Four: Period of Purification

This is the final and most intense step of the RCIA candidates. This step lasts the duration of Lent, forty days. During this step, the candidates finalize their learning, enlightenment and preparation for the Easter Vigil.

Step Five: Easter Vigil

Easter Day is defined as the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after the 21st day of March; and if the full moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter Day is the Sunday after. Easter Vigil is the Saturday before Easter.

At the Easter Vigil mass, the candidates receive the Sacraments of Initiation. Catechumenates will receive Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation. Candidates for Full Communion will receive First Communion (if they have not already) and Confirmation. At this point, all candidates are considered Full Adult Members of the Catholic Church.

Step Six: Mystagogy

Mystagogy is anopportunity for those who have concluded their RCIA process to continue to learn more and deepen their faith. The newly initiated member of the Church, or neophytes, continue to gather and learn. This period of time is variable based on each parish.

St. Francis: My Husband's Gift After His Catholic Conversion

St. Francis of Assisi: My gift to my husband after his conversion
St. Francis of Assisi: My gift to my husband after his conversion | Source

Recalling My Husband's Journey

My husband followed these steps. I remember the weekly classes. I recall going to mass together and he was dismissed with his class to learn more about our faith. I attended the Rite of Election conducted by our Bishop. I thoroughly enjoy masses by the Bishop due to the associated pomp and circumstance. I attended Easter Vigil with my husband. The two or more hour mass passed quickly as the importance and symbolism of the ceremony was captivating. I felt my faith deepen watching him receive Communion and Confirmation. I was proud of his journey. He was proud of himself.

Everyone must follow their own path through life. If your path leads you to Catholicism, take your conversion seriously. It is a life changing commitment involving time, education, tradition and ultimately, a deeper understanding of your new faith.

Your faith is your own. Embrace your journey.

© 2012 Karen Lackey

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    • twinstimes2 profile image
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      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment, jellygator!

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the conversion process. Although I was christened Catholic as an infant, and exposed to Catholicism (as well as other religions) throughout my childhood, I did not receive confirmation and do not consider myself a Catholic. One of the reasons I didn't is because I felt frequently and unfairly judged by many people who were supposed to be devout believers but who appeared to me to be nothing more than people with a superiority complex.

      Dave Matthews, you're one of those people who keeps me away from practicing my faith within any religion. Sorry, but it's true. I hope one day you'll re-read how your comments sounded judgmental and critical, and ask yourself if *that* is keeping with the spirit of the New Testament or not.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
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      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, denisemai. I am surprised at how many people have read this and then told me they followed the process as well. It took me back to my husband's conversion, too. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • denisemai profile image

      Denise Mai 5 years ago from Idaho

      Boy this takes me back. I did this. My husband is the cradle Catholic. I wish this article was around at the time. Of course, the Internet was in its infancy then....so, voted up!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      I didn't realize you converted, Debi! Congratulations to you!

    • profile image

      Debi 5 years ago

      Brings back memories! I went through this process 6 years ago. My grandmother was Catholic, so I had a basic understanding. I had wanted to convert before that but needed to finish school so I could focus on the classes and information. I am so glad that I did!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Congratulations on your conversion, randomcreative! Would you have anything to add to my hub based on your experience?

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I converted to Catholicism 7 years ago and always enjoy hearing other people's story of the process. It was not an easy journey for me, but I'm really glad that I did it. Thanks for sharing your insight and knowledge!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for the comments, Eurocafeaulait! My Mom still wishes us happy feast day, but it is definitely not celebrated like you suggested. I kind of wish it was! I can only imagine the St. Anthony parties!

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi Twins! Nice to see you so solid in your beliefs. I admire you for that. Just wanted to tell you, here in middle Europe people are very serious about their saints (Name) days. It's like a second birthday. By nature, most here are non-religious but very loyal to their faith, interesting combination, hm? For Saint Anthony's day on June 13 - half the town gets wished "Happy Name Day". All the Tonys, Antonias, and so on. It's also not unusual to receive presents on your Name Day. Up and Interesting! Loved the stained glass too! :)

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Interesting take on the word Catholicism, faithjose. I had never thought of it that way. I really the term 'exercising Catholic faith' as well. Good point! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

    • faithjose profile image

      faithjose 5 years ago

      thanks for the hub. I hate the word Catholicism as it sounds very much like 'alcoholism'. To me catholicism also means a set of rituals or beliefs done on regular basis without really understanding what each of the thing means. I like the word 'catholic faith' more than catholism, even though both means almost the same. I am not a big fan of people practicing catholicism but those who exercise their catholic faith.

      Interesting read and keep coming good work- Thanks.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      No pressure, Brainy Bunny!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks for the shout-out, but I have to finish writing it first! Maybe I'll work on it tonight to capitalize on the excitement. :-)

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Goodlady! I am excited to read How To Convert to Judaism by Brainy Bunny. Sounds like we both just appreciate the tradition and process, even if it is not our faith. Thanks for taking the time to read!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      How important this Hub is to all people who begin to wonder 'what if being a Catholic' is the religion they want to adopt as their way of life. The steps to be taken are so well documented, making it clear the degree of sincerity and dedication asked of them.

      Incredibly helpful.

      Voting up and interesting and useful and also beautiful. (Though this is not my religion)

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading and the kind words, billybuc! I appreciate it!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow, I was just going to tell you that you did a good job on this hub! I didn't realize it was a forum for religious rants. Sigh! Great job!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      I did miss the point of your journey includes being both a Born again Christian and a Catholic. I appreciate your clarification on how you are following in your faith.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      twinstimes2: You claim to be a Catholic, yet you do not seem to understand that you too must be a "Born Again Christian. One cannot be a true follower of Christ Jesus especially as a "Catholic" Unless one is born again by faith in Jesus Christ, if you are not, then you are a hypcrite even to your own Catholic Religion.

      JOHN: 3:3 Jesus tells us: " Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"

      Therefore even a Catholic must be "Born Again".

      And by thr way, I am "Christian" first and foremost, yet still I am in association with the Catholic Church for over 60 years, and I also sing with two church choirs in the church. I simply refuse to blindly swallow and agree with all of the dogmatic precepts taught by the church, if they are not in agreeance 100% with Holy Scripture.

      By the way, my confirmation name is "GABRIEL" after the Angel of enlightenment.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Angela_michelle, I think that finding a good fit is what is most important. I am glad that you have. My middle name is Elizabeth and so is my daughters. Thanks for the comments.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Dave, I completely understand your need to be a born again Christian vs Catholic. Faith lives are personal choices and you must chose the right fit for you! I am so happy that you are happy with the journey you have chosen!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      You would want both, LauraG! But, we have the BlueJackets so his win isn't that much of a win at this point! I did learn during the RCIA process, too. Thanks for the vote up!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, ElizaDoole. I like the fact that there is a process. I think some people get engaged and decided ok, I will be Catholic. It needs to be a bigger decision than that and the church makes sure that it is. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 5 years ago from United States

      I was raised Catholic and have not followed my Catholic heritage since. It's not that my beliefs are so drastically different, but there are a few differences, it's that I found a church that suits me and it is not Catholic. I did get confirmed in the Catholic church though. My Confirmation name was Elizabeth. I always figured if I had ever been able to name a little girl, I would name her Julia Elizabeth. Partly because of that. Anyway, great hub, with very thorough information. Great job!

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      twins: I too was born and raised as a Roman Catholic. At Confirmation the presiding Cardinal instructed us to start reading our bibles so that we could draw closer to God and Jesus, so that's what I did.

      Funny thing is though the Holy Spirit kept drawing me to various scriptures and pointing out to me various dogmatic teachings of Catholicism, that were not in-line with Holy Scripture.

      The more I read, the more I learned, and the more I learned, the more faults I was discovering.

      The most important thing I learned is that first and foremost, I needed to be a born again "Christian" and that if dogmatic policies of any church regardless of denomination or,sect affiliation, if it was not purely truthfully and accurately inline with Holy Scripture, then it was wrong. One by one I started to disguard them from my beliefs and my faith.

      If you want a perfect example of what I am stating, here's one. MATTHEW:16:17-18;

      "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

      And I say unto thee That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;"

      The Catholic Church, wrongfully twists this quote to suit its own purpose, wrongfully teaching that Peter is to be the foundation cornerstone of the church when in fact all Jesus was actually saying is that "You are Peter." Christianity, the church of Christ Jesus, begins and ends with Christ Jesus as the foundation and cornerstone. Christianity is based upon Jesus as the head of the church movement that becomes known as Christians or Christianity. It is never called the church of Peter and never will be.

      Fact is Catholicism does not get started up until 325 years later, and, it is started by a Roman Emperor named Constantine. Rome was losing it's political power, so Emperor Constantine sought another path to restore some sort of fame to Rome by starting up a new religion.

      Peter, already dead some 250 years is named as the first "Pope" and that scripture was used and twisted to endorse Peter as Pope, sort of a demotion, as he was already a Saint.

      This is but one example, there are many more.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Catholic schools and hockey tickets are both great wins by me! Yes, I am have learned so much more about my Catholic faith from people going through the RCIA process. That is the downside of being cradle Catholic--there are so many traditions that sometimes you don't lean why the traditions are there to begin with. Very informative hub detailing the RCIA process. Voted up!

    • ElizaDoole profile image

      Lisa McKnight 5 years ago from London

      It is a long an complex program. Thanks for writing this. It seems like you have to really make a decision before you become a Catholic.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading, Kashmir. I enjoyed thinking about his journey again!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Brainy Bunny. I am eager to read yours about becoming Jewish!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I love learning about rituals of different faiths, and you have done a lovely job of describing the process of becoming Catholic here. Voted up and beautiful.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      A very interesting and beautifully written hub on your husband journey on his way to being converted into the Catholic faith, enjoyed reading it !

      Vote up and more !!!