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Everything You Wanted to Know about RCIA & How to Join the Catholic Church

RCIA & How to Join the Catholic Church via @ACatholicNewbie

If you’re curious about the Catholic church, want to learn more about it or are even ready to convert, what can you do? Join your local Catholic church’s RCIA program.

What in the heck is RCIA, you ask?!

What is RCIA?

RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and it is the formal program that allows individuals to become members of the Catholic church. RCIA programs tend to start in the fall, so this is a great time to begin considering joining the program before they start up again in the fall.

Joining RCIA, however, does NOT mean you HAVE to join the church. You’re always welcome to just come and learn, and if you decide it’s not for you — or maybe you just aren’t ready yet because you have more questions — you can opt out or continue on again next year.

RCIA programs generally go from September through Easter, when individuals are officially brought in as members of the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass, which is the mass held the evening before Easter.

It is a beautiful mass and ceremony where you are baptized (only if you have not been baptized by a Christian church in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), confirmed and receive the Eucharist (which Catholics maintain is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ) in First Communion.

As a convert who went through RCIA for TWO years before converting in 2013 and now part of the team who helps lead RCIA for interested new members, I’ve spent many years surrounded in the joy of welcoming “newbies” into the Church. In fact, I feel it’s my calling!

How Do I Sign Up for RCIA?

First, visit a few local Catholic churches and find one that feels “right” to you. Then visit their website and look for Faith Formation, Adult Formation or RCIA.

If you can’t find it, simply call the main office at the church and tell them you are interested in RCIA or in learning more about the church as a non-Catholic and as an adult, and they will direct you to the correct person for more information.

RCIA programs usually meet once a week, some on weeknights, others on weekends. So you will want to consider a program that works for your schedule as well, as you’ll want to be there as often as possible.

What Is RCIA Like?

While each church is different, throughout the process you’ll learn about key tenets of the Catholic faith and its history, and have an opportunity to ask questions, inquire about your doubts and concerns and discuss different aspects of the faith, including how to live the faith in your daily life.

There are also various welcoming ceremonies held during mass to provide “grace” (help from God) and prayer as you go through this process so that God might guide you as grow in your learning and practice of the faith.

These ceremonies are no big deal — simply standing up at mass with the priest saying a prayer over you along with others in your group. The Catholic church wants to welcome you and educate you, never pressure you, and that is what the process is about.

If you find an RCIA group that does not feel like a fit, don’t be afraid to opt out and look for a different parish. Pray that God will guide you to where you need to be.

Why Do People Come to RCIA?

As I mentioned, I’ve been involved with RCIA at my parish both going through it and assisting for several years. We hear all kinds of stories of why people have joined RCIA.

Here are a few: someone who was inspired by Pope Francis, others who are marrying Catholics and wanting to raise kids in the same faith, spouses who are converting after as many as 20 years, those feeling a direct calling from God, and those who are simply just interested in exploring Catholicism more in depth and learning the truth about the faith.

We’ve had people who are already Catholic who don’t feel like they know as much as they’d like about their faith and others who simply just come to welcome newcomers to the church. They are single, married, in high school, grandparents, pregnant, going through an annulment, former atheists, Baptists and Methodists. You name it, they’ve been there!

So never feel like you’re alone or have too unusual a story to join the group.

What questions do you have about RCIA? What’s stopping you from signing up? How can I help?

Catholicism through a Convert’s Eyes: Win 2 FREE Catholic Books!

Journeys Home book giveaway through 7/20/15 via @ACatholicNewbieAs days pass and we become comfortable in our Catholicism and the sacraments begin to feel more like a routine and Catholic conversion storiesless like an encounter with the living God, it’s time to shake ourselves out of that lukewarm sleep and remember WHY we are Catholic.

As a convert myself, I find it often helps to view your faith anew through the eyes of a convert, someone who as an adult actively CHOSE Catholicism because they fell in love with it. Some who choose it despite knowing they were leaving a career, friends or family behind because they knew they had found the fullness of God’s truth in our faith.

Journeys Home and Journeys Home 2 edited by Marcus Grodi, founding president of Coming Home Network International, is a wake-up call to the joys of our faith. These books compile the conversion stories of men and women — priests, religious and lay people. They serve as a joyful wake-up call to the beauty of Catholicism and Jesus’ call to all of us to return home to Rome.

Catholic conversion storiesI love nothing better than a good conversion story! I love to dissect exactly what drew a person to the Church, where it happened and why. What was their thought process? These stories do a great job explaining all of this and give great logical understanding, paired with faith, of why Catholicism is the one true Church, calling people from all faiths back to the church Jesus founded 2000 years ago.

You’ll enter the mind of Southern Baptists, Anglicans, Evangelical Pentecostals and Muslims to explore what drew them to Catholicism. Some more recognizable converts who share their stories in the books include:

Thanks to, I am able to gift two lucky winners each with volumes 1 and 2 of Journeys Home to inspire you on journey and re-awaken in you Catholicism’s call. Simply enter the contest by completing as many of the tasks below as you desire. The more you enter, the better your chance to win! I will announce the winner on Monday, July 20.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to Easily Start a Conversation about Catholicism — Anywhere

Catholic evangelization

As Catholics, we tend to dismiss our abilities to evangelize and to “witness” our Christian faith to others. We say we’re not good at it, at least not as good as Protestants, and we certainly don’t want to bash people over the head with our faith. No, we don’t!

But, as Catholics, I’ve discovered several ways to easily inspire a conversation about faith without being so obvious and without bringing out the “brick.” It’s also a way to follow Pope Francis’ theme of leading lives of joyful Catholicism, focusing on the positives of knowing Jesus and not starting the conversation with a bunch of “don’t”s.

Here are some simple ways to get that conversation going so you can positively witness to the faith by sharing your own experience and knowledge:

1) Wear some outward sign – I wear a Miraculous Medal and a cross. Lots of people wear crosses, so that doesn’t generally open the door to conversation. But my medal — time and time again — has led people to ask me what it is and led to a great conversation about faith.

2) Read the Bible – Catholic evangelist Hector Molina spoke at my parish’s mission retreat this year, and he inspired this post with a story he shared. When he’s flying to give talks around the country, he explained that he has a captive audience of his fellow air travelers. He always carries his Bible and reads it, which often gives rise to conversation about favorite verses and ultimately religion, and even prays his rosary.

3) Pray the Rosary in public – This one will really get a conversation going and you’ve got to be brave about it! Can you be as bold as Hector and pray the rosary on the plane? If not, try a walking rosary at your local park or public path. Pray the rosary in rhythm to your steps as you carry it. You might not have a conversation by praying but you never know who is watching and what effect it may have on them.

4) Talk about going to mass, reconciliation, Holy Days and more – Casually mention to your neighbor, or your child’s friends’ parents or the fast food worker, what you’re doing or just did as it relates to church. They just might ask you for more information and give you the opportunity to explain.

5) Pray before meals – Of course, you should pray before meals anyway to thank God for our many blessings, but there’s an added bonus. People will notice. I’ve heard so many stories of people commenting to others about how great it was to see someone praying in public.  Again, even if it doesn’t inspire a conversation, you never know what impact it might have on someone watching nearby.

6) Read a Catholic book – You should also be doing this anyway to grow in your faith! But carry one with you always, so if you have down time, you can pull out the book and read a few pages (side note: great program on How to Read More Books from Brandon Vogt here). Books are always a good conversation starter. I was at the park one day with my kids and reading St. Therese’s “Story of a Soul“. Boy did that start a conversation with the Protestant man sitting next to me. He did not have a good view of the Catholic church and we discussed the whole idea of “saints.” This was early in my Catholic days, so I’m not sure I had the best answers to persuade him, but I sure tried.

That leads me to my conclusion. When these conversations do start — and they WILL — be prepared! “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.” 1 Peter 3:15

You can prepare yourself by reading great Catholic books, listening to shows on EWTN radio like Catholic Answers, Open Line and Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo, which give great explanations for common questions and misperceptions about Catholicism.

Also, consider blogging or journaling so you have fresh in your head stories from your own life about the power of God and God’s graces that have benefited you. No one can argue with your authentic experience. It also helps to know key Bible verses, especially when chatting with Protestants who have a largely Bible-only view of Christianity.

What things have you experienced that unexpectedly started a conversation about faith and Catholicism?

The Prayer Jesus Loves Most

praying for sinnersI’ve been enjoying the daily email readings from the Diary of St. Faustina for Lent from the great folks at Flocknote (read the full reflection) and I particularly loved this excerpt from March 20:

“The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness. You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.” (Diary – 1397)

I was so happy to hear that the prayer most pleasing to Jesus is the conversion of sinners, because I pray that one a lot. And I know I’ve been told to be persistent in prayer and there are plenty of saint examples and even words from Jesus that support this, but sometimes I thinking I’m bugging God, you know? I think clearly he’s not ready to convert this particular sinner, so perhaps I should be quiet and know that God’s will shall be done in His time.

But after reading this, it made me feel good about continuing this prayer. We want to console Jesus and make Him happy. And he told me it WILL be answered in His time. I’ll keep on praying…