God works in many different ways. Most of the time, God works through ordinary people and events—a parent, a friend, a beautiful sunset, a song, an inspiring story. Other times, we hear God’s call during crisis moments or major life-changes—a birth, an engagement, a sickness, a death. Sometimes, we just have a feeling that something is missing. No matter what your reason for thinking about becoming Catholic, our hope and prayer is that when God calls, you will respond. (If you’re reading this, you’ve already begun to respond!) One part of the Catholic Church’s mission is to help people respond to God as best they can. For Christians, initiation and on-going participation in the life of the Church are the primary responses to God’s call. Through the process of becoming Catholic, we try to help people learn how to respond to that call not just for the moment of baptism but for everyday of their lives. The way we learn how to respond is by actually doing what Catholics do. So the process of becoming Catholic is not so much about learning things as in a classroom but learning a way of life as an apprentice learns from a master and that master’s community.
Becoming Catholic is a process. The Catholic Church has recently recovered and developed a process that some of the earliest Christians churches had used when people came to them asking to be baptized. The basic structure of this process looks like this:
The way to begin this process of becoming Catholic is to get connected to a parish community. Ask Catholic friends and neighbors about their own parishes. Visit some parishes near your home. Don’t be afraid to ask a Catholic friend to go with you to a Mass and to ask questions of those you meet. Know that most priests and parish leaders you’ll meet at a Sunday Mass would be very happy to talk with you about becoming Catholic, but oftentimes, these are the very people who are most busy with preparing the Sunday celebrations. So Sunday might not be the best day to engage them in a long conversation. On Sunday, consider instead a brief hello and introduction if they have not yet welcomed you. Let them know that you’re new to the Church and are thinking about becoming Catholic. Then ask them when might be a good time to talk with them more. Oftentimes also, there will be an informal gathering after a Mass for coffee and refreshments. Feel free to meet other parish leaders and parishioners in this informal setting.
The Catholic Church has been blessed abundantly by its recovery of the initiation process outlined above. In seeing the amazing faith that the catechumens, elect, and neophytes express, our own faith is renewed and strengthened. However, the initiation process has also challenged us to be a Church of deeper faith and vigorous hospitality. As in the process of becoming Catholic, the Church today is also learning how to be a more faithful image of Christ who welcomed the stranger. If your first experience of Church is not as welcoming as it should be, we hope that you would give us another try.
View a list of parishes in the Diocese of San Jose.