For adults who feel called to join the Catholic Church, the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is the process that supports and enhances the faith journey leading to full Communion in the Catholic Church. Each individual’s situation is carefully evaluated through detailed interviews and conversations. Some of the general situations are as follows:
Adults never baptized: These generally begin with the Inquiry Process, in which questions are freely asked and answered, and by which the individual can gain assurance that the desire to become Catholic is authentic. Following Inquiry, this person might commit to the RCIA, becoming a catechumen.
Adults baptized, but unchurched (not consistently practicing any religion):
For baptized Catholics, a period of faith formation, religious instruction, and support for a renewed commitment to the practice of the Catholic faith will lead to the sacrament of Reconciliation followed by Confirmation and Holy Communion. In some cases, this process of formation will include participation in many of the RCIA’s instruction sessions, as the content needed is the same as for those who have not been baptized. But a baptized Catholic will not undergo the rites of initiation, since these are meant to lead toward baptism, and do not follow it.
For those baptized in other Christian faiths, but not consistently practicing any faith, a period of formation similar to the RCIA is necessary. But every Christian baptism using water and the Trinitarian verbal formula is recognized as valid by the Catholic Church. So the rites that are meant to lead toward baptism are not celebrated by those already baptized, even when the baptism was not in the Catholic Church.
For adults who are baptized in other Christian Faiths and practicing their faith consistently:
The process of entering into full Communion with the Catholic Church varies according to the needs of the individual. A practicing Anglican, for example, would have much in common with practicing Catholics. A lengthy and detailed formation process may not be necessary. On the other hand, a practicing member of an evangelical Protestant faith would require somewhat more detailed information, catechesis, and formation, in order to learn and acquire the practices of Catholic faith.
Previous marriages and their effect on those seeking membership in the Catholic Church:
A person whose previous marriage has ended in divorce, or whose spouse has been previously married and divorced, may not be baptized, or may not be received into full Communion in the Catholic Church. Previous marriages must be annulled, making the individual(s) free to enter into a sacramental marriage at or near the time of their baptism or reception into full Communion with the Church. The annulment process can be lengthy and challenging at times, but is always treated with compassion, discretion, and support for those involved. It is generally seen as a healing experience by those who complete it, and paves the way for full participation in the life and sacraments of the Catholic Church.
For complete information about any aspect of joining the Church, either through Baptism or reception into full Communion, please contact any member of the RCIA team, the pastoral staff, or any parish priest. If you know someone who is a member of the parish, they will very likely be happy to introduce you to one of the priests, pastoral staff members, or RCIA team members.
Most important is this: If you feel called to join the Catholic Church, a warm welcome awaits you. You will find support, encouragement, straight answers to your questions, individual attention to your personal situation and needs, and compassion throughout any and all of the steps on your journey of faith – your journey home.