BECOMING A CATHOLIC: TAKING THE FIRST STEP
Rev. Daniel L. Mode
The hardest part about starting anything new is taking that first step. The first step towards becoming a Catholic is also the hardest part in converting. While the very heart of any conversion process and it is a process, sometimes taking years is the relationship of the individual convert to God, there are many other people who must be involved in the whole path to complete union with the Church.
You only need to read any conversion account in the New Testament to see that the role of others is crucial to any true and lasting conversion. When Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch if he understood the scripture passage from Isaiah, the Ethiopian replied, "How can I, unless someone explains it to me." (Acts 8:31) Philip not only explained that passage and the Christian Faith, but also baptized the Ethiopian. The process that helps "explain it to" converts is known as the conversion process.
This process helps a person to overcome the many "obstacles" which seem to stand in our way to opening up to God's call in our life. Some obstacles include: What will the family think? . . . Where will I go to start the process of conversion? . . . I still have so many questions about the Catholic Faith. . . I have led a sinful life in my past, the Catholic Church will never take me. These are the common "first steps" that a person who is contemplating the idea of conversion has to come to some understanding of before he or she is ready to begin the formal process of conversion.
The easiest question is where one goes to begin the process of conversion. The answer: any Catholic priest. Find the nearest Catholic Church in your area and start there. Priests are continually helping people enter the Church. While it may seem awkward to speak with a priest, it certainly will not be for the priest. You need to start somewhere and talking with a priest is a good way to begin to answer all those questions you still have about the Faith and what Catholics really believe. Also know that any sinner who is truly sorry is welcome in the Church. We teach the Mercy of God and the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Penance.
The process of conversion can take place in two ways. The most common form of conversion is known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA which is a four stage process leading to entrance into the Church. A person could also convert privately with one to one instruction with a priest.
If you are attracted to the Catholic Faith, take the first step. You can also write to receive additional information and, if you wish, have someone call you to answer your questions. (Fr. Daniel L. Mode is an associate pastor of St. Mary's parish in Fairfax, VA. He was ordained in 1991 and is a spiritual director for the Legion of Mary).