1. How do I become a Catholic?
Becoming a Catholic is a big step. It is something that involves both the head and the heart – so that it involves both learning about the faith and becoming committed to it. For each person it is a unique personal journey.
Alternatively, you might like to read The Catholic Story, available here on this website. There are 18 lessons which can be down-loaded. It is a good general introduction into the main elements of the Catholic faith.
Becoming a Catholic involves joining a parish community and in this regard the first step is to arrange a meeting with a priest or a pastoral associate in your local parish. Contact details can be usually found through a Google search. Alternatively you can contact the Catholic Enquiry Centre by phone or email to locate your local parish.
If you do know someone who is a Catholic - someone whom you trust and can talk with – you might like to talk to them about the faith and perhaps later ask them to introduce you to the parish priest, or you might like to accompany them to Mass on some Sundays
After initial contact with the parish you may be invited to join in the Rite Of Christian Initiation For Adults (RCIA) in which you join with others who are seeking to become members of the Catholic Church. This process may last between six to eighteen months.
Through the RCIA people meet regularly with a catechist and some Catholics from the local community to listen and learn what it means to be a Catholic. It is not a crash-course. Over a period of months RCIA participants are gradually introduced into the life of the Catholic Church.
On occasion it may be suggested that you enter into a process of personal instruction in the Catholic faith. Whatever process is suggested, much will depend on the individual and a person's religious background.
Of course the other essential element involves growing in one's relationship with God. Therefore prayer in all its many and varied forms is important.
Gradually, over time through a series of liturgical rites, all being well, following the ancient tradition, those preparing to become a Catholic are welcomed into the Church as full members at the Easter Sunday Vigil Mass.
2. Orthodox Christians Joining The Catholic Church
Moving from an Orthodox Church to become a member of the Catholic Church is both simple and complicated.
The move is simple in that the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church all exist in an unbroken chain of succession back to the Apostles of Jesus Christ. The Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church are in also agreement with regard to an overwhelming majority of the beliefs and practices. That said, changing one’s Church membership is a serious matter and it should not be done without sufficient cause.
There are however some complications. Because the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church have for many centuries existed in diverse cultural contexts some differences have developed in the way doctrines are understood and in the manner in which Sacraments are celebrated. Another complicating factor is that there exists a number of churches that claim apostolic succession and have the word “Orthodox” as part of their name. Among “Orthodox” churches there is a variety of positions on how particular doctrines are understood. Currently there is much scholarly work being done in ecumenical circles and new historical research is uncovering instances of misunderstanding between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches rather than disagreement in regard to doctrines.
Returning to the Catholic Church, in countries or regions in which the dominate Catholic Church is other than the Roman Rite it is normally expected that even though the person changes the Church they belong to he or she would continue to practice the form of worship of which they are familiar. For example in the Ukraine a person moving from Ukrainian Orthodox Church to become a Catholic would become a Ukrainian Catholic.
In Australia it can be the case that a marriage takes place between a Greek Orthodox man and a Catholic woman. When this occurs the wedding often takes place in an Orthodox Church and the children of the union are fully initiated into the Greek Orthodox Church as infants. On occasion it may also be the case that as the children grow they may accompany their Catholic mother to regular Sunday Mass and have little contact with Orthodox Church. When the child in this circumstance matures and is looking to get married it may be the case, that in the light of their history of practice they desire is to marry in the Catholic Church.
Preparing to get married is a time of significant personal transition and transformation. During this period it is not unusual for the individuals who make up the couple to think about what faith they want their children baptised into. In this context the person who was initiated into the Orthodox tradition, but has grown up worshiping in the Catholic Church, may request to become a Catholic.
As noted earlier there is an expectation that when an Orthodox Christian moves to the Catholic Church he or she would move to the Catholic Church that is similar to the Orthodox form of worship they have been used to. For example when a person moves from being Greek Orthodox to joining the Catholic Church he or she would become a Catholic in the Melkite Catholic Church.
Once the person has been recieved into the Catholic Church there are two options. A member from any Eastern Catholic Church may be married in a Roman Catholic Church. Alternatively, the member of the Eastern Catholic Church may request to have his or her marriage celebrated in English in the Eastern Catholic Church of which he or she is now a member.