The journey

The general path for non-Catholics to become Catholic is through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). The details vary some from parish to parish, but it is a process in which you learn about the Catholic faith and way of life. The class meets once per week for about 2 hours over a period of 5 or 6 months. For many but not all people.

When I started 4 months ago I was told that I needed a sponsor. Hmmm, that sounds like I might be joining a country club and need someone to vouch for me! It briefly brought to mind Groucho Marx’s paradox:

I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.

Your sponsor can be any Catholic in good standing, 16 or older. Generally it should not be a spouse or close family member. The sponsor helps the candidate (someone who is already baptized) or catechumen (someone who is not) during the process. They help answer your questions, attend Mass with you, RCIA classes, various Church activities, etc. Your sponsor helps “show you the ropes.” My good friend Rigsby is my sponsor, which meant he had 2 of us for a few months, myself and Eric. Eric’s RCIA class overlapped ours. Fortunately for Rigsby, the classes are combined during those periods! Don’t worry if you need a sponsor, there are many volunteers.

RCIA is described as a journey. When I first heard that, a part of me thought “yea, sure.” Classes have a starting point, a syllabus, a schedule, an end date and some sort of graduation / certification – right? A class is a “journey” only in as much as you hopefully “travel” from less knowledge to more.

My classes are interesting, taught so far by Deacons John and Ron and lay folks – Daniel, Derek, Ed, Marianna, Mike, Skip, Tom, Trish, and Vince. The pace is not hurried, and questions are always welcome. The 2 hour classes fly by. What started out as another scheduled activity soon became something I eagerly look forward to.

The classes are serious but fun too. Deacon John taught the class on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (a/k/a confession). One of the questions he was asked is if he hears confessions. A big smile came to his face and a twinkle in his eye when he replied that he would love to hear our confessions any time! Pause. Pause. Then he noted however that he would not be granting any of us absolution! Only a priest can do that.

I have found that RCIA is not just for learning about Catholicism. It is a gentle process that deepens your Christian faith and slowly opens your mind and heart to living it better. It is also a spark that ignites a passion to learn more.

So, when exactly do you become Catholic? I don’t think it happens at a single point in time. The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are very important and are milestones but insufficient by themselves. It happens when you are Catholic in your heart. That is the journey – one that continues long after RCIA.

I know that conversion of heart is not always reached by everyone in a class. Sometimes people feel they are not yet ready and continue in the next session. For others it may not be the right time. This is something each individual must discern.

Joining an RCIA course is a wonderful journey. If you know practicing Catholics at a local parish, ask them. If not, call the parish office and ask for the RCIA coordinator’s contact info.

If you have been away from the Church, your parish will have RCIA or other classes as appropriate to help. Welcome home.

This is my Conversion Story, part 4 of 4. Please also see:

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Comments

  1. Welcome George!
    My husband and I came home/swam the Tiber/walked the Roman Road, etc,…in 1994. It was the hardest decision we have ever made. But, I assure you, one we have never regretted. That is saying something in this fallen world. You will find that the Church is much bigger on the inside (if I may paraphrase GK Chesterton). We have learned how to live, love and be a real family through the guidance of our dear shepherds. Now we have a complete Heavenly family. A mother, brothers and sisters in Heaven all rooting for us and guiding us as well. There is so much to say, but I will leave it at:
    Welcome home to you and your family!

  2. Wow. George, thanks for posting your conversion story. I ended up at your blog through someone else's and I'm glad I did. I'll be looking forward to reading more from you.

  3. tnx George for the inspiration!

  4. What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi George and all…

    I am one of those cradle Catholics who is (as you described in your story) sincerely very happy for you and your family! I love reading about convert stories. You all make me cry and help me realize how truly precious and truthful our Catholic faith is. You tell your experience from your eyes/your journey and I appreciate that. We are all continually working on our own "conversion of hearts" no matter how long we have been in the Catholic Church. My deeper journey started at age 28 and now at 36 I can finally say I see and feel the completeness and fullness of Catholocism. I am sure there is much more to learn too. Thank you for your story and your blog.

    Sincerely, Silja

  6. Love your story! Sorry you had to go through what you did as some Protestant denominations are moving away from Christ. But I am so glad you were open to Catholicism, because you see now why we are in this Church.
    If you really want to be blown away, read the early Church fathers. I read a fantastic book by a convert to Catholicism called Steve Ray called “Upon this Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in the Scriptures and Early Church.” Incredible. Steve Ray also has a web site which is out of this world (you can tell I’m a fan!) and has many insights.
    God bless you.

  7. I am a fellow convert- came home to the Church two years ago. I too came from a mainline Protestant denomination that also had many of the same issues you described so well, almost felt like I could have written this. I am married to a cradle Catholic who fell away in college and then married evangelical me- brought him back with me and he was my RCIA sponsor. I have never regretted a single day and I am truly home in the Church Jesus founded for us and with my Church family here on earth and the whole communion of saints! God Bless!

  8. Welcome home! I love it when family comes home to for the feast! RCIA is even good for some of us ‘cradle’ Catholics to experience.

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