Labels are funny things. They can mean different things to different people. They influence how people view you. They influence how you view yourself.
In a broad context, Catholics are informally labeled into 2 groups: cradle Catholics and converts. Cradle Catholics were typically baptized and raised as Catholics. The rest of us are converts.
When I first began RCIA I was sometimes introduced along the lines of “this is George, he is converting” or “George, this is Jane and she is a convert too.” Something about the word just did not fit how I saw myself.
Maybe it was because it might somehow imply I was “wrong” before, thus bruising my pride. It might be that I still wanted to keep my options open in case this whole Catholic thing did not work out. I know that some have felt the word implied they were converting to Christianity (although that is sometimes the case). For that matter, it might just be saying “this is George, beware – an outsider.”
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to figure out the true subtext, and it is all good!
It may surprise many non-Catholics to learn there are a lot of us converts in the Catholic Church. We are not a rarity at all. Meeting a new person starting RCIA for some is a happy, fond memory of starting their own journey.
I spoke of this earlier, but cradle or convert, you will also find that people are genuinely happy for you and that you are here.
Then there is the topic of knowledge. The Church has a long history and deep tradition. There is a lot to learn and probably a lot that may never be learned. The RCIA process together with the zeal to learn of many new adult converts actually places them not on some lower tier but on a higher one in some eyes.
Finally, there is a sort of special blessing in being a convert. We are led here, away from our status quo and accepted the call to be Catholic. We didn’t have to. We could have decided not to make the effort, to beat back that nagging feeling something was missing, to ignore the errant paths of our churches and to just learn to “live with” how things were.
I am happy to call myself a convert. Now if I could only figure out what took me so long!