Becoming a Catholic

Information & Inspiration

Frequently Asked Questions

In these responses we have given general answers. There may well be differences in practice due to local circumstances and your own personal situation.

How long will it take?
As a rule as long as it needs to but in general at least a year.
When might I become a Catholic?
If you are unbaptised (have not been christened) the normal time for baptism is at Easter (Spring). If you have been baptised into another Christian denomination you can be received into the Church at any point when you are ready. Many parishes however like to keep everyone together and so everyone becomes members of the Church at Easter.
Will I be pressurised? Is there a deadline?
No. As mentioned above the Church has a timetable that centres around Easter each year but there will be time for reflection and discernment both by you and the parish team before you make this big step. If you do not feel ready to make this step you can wait.
What do I need to do to join the Church?
Become a member of a group at the local church which will consist of people in a similar situation to yourself together with members of the church. You will have an opportunity to both learn about the Catholic Church and to reflect on what you are seeking.
Is it a course – does it cost me anything?
How each parish goes about preparing people will be different but you can expect that it will include looking at scripture, information about what Catholics believe, time for prayer and reflection, engagement in the life of the parish community. There will be no cost.
What things might keep from being a Catholic?
First of all you may decide that this is not right for you and you will be free you leave when you wish.
Sometimes people’s marriage or life situation can pose a difficulty where it might not concur with the Church’s understanding of these matters. In many parishes near the beginning of the process their will be a confidential interview with the priest to see if there are any such questions and what solutions may be possible. In such situations it is important to be honest, to identify anything early on and not to have preconceptions. The Church will want to help you respond to God’s call in your life.
Do I need to know a Catholic to become a Catholic?
Not necessarily – though it will be important that through the time of preparation you get to know people in the local Catholic community. You will get to know people in the RCIA group and they will also help you find a Sponsor who is a ‘faith-friend’.
I am not sure whether I was baptised – does it make a difference?
You can only be baptised once. The Catholic Church recognises that the baptism people receive in other Christian denominations is valid and so you would not be baptised again. If you are not sure it is usually possible to check the records of the place where you were baptised.
I was brought up Church of England will that make a difference?
The Catholic Church recognises and values your baptism. You have a different starting point to someone who is not yet baptised. You will eventually be received into the Church and given the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. How and when this happens may depend on you and the parish. Is it possible in some parishes that, if you have been an active member of the Church, they will discern with you what areas of teaching you need help with and how you might best be introduced into the parish community and then you might be received when you are ready – at what ever time of year. For others, who perhaps were baptised as infants and have had less contact with the Church, you will take your place alongside those who are preparing for baptism.
My spouse is Catholic and I have been going to Mass for years – can’t I just be done quickly?
Becoming a Catholic is a big decision in someone’s life and it needs time and space for the decision to be taken. Why this decision, now? What is God asking of me? Even when we are familiar with something we may still have uncertainties and questions. You may also be an asset to the group because you will have experience and insight about what it means to be part of a Catholic community both at home and in the parish.
There some aspects of the Catholic Church I have questions about?
Through the process you will have a chance to ask your questions and to discover what the Catholic Church teaches and why. You will also learn that the Church places different levels of importance on different areas of faith and practice.
Can I bring a friend to the meeting?
This may depend on local circumstances and it may be best to check with a member of the team.
I work shifts – Will I have to go to every meeting?
It is usually important to attend every meeting but you should discuss your situation with a member of the parish team and they will explore different ways of supporting you.
How will I know whether this is right for me?
If you look through the ‘Shape of the Rite’ you will see there are two key moments when you will reflect with members of the parish team about readiness to make a stronger commitment. This will not just be based on your understanding of what you have heard and what questions you have but also on how this has affected the way you live your life. You should always be able to say that I am not ready yet or I want to take more time.
Who should I contact? Who should I ask for?
Different parishes will work in different ways. Many parishes now have websites which will give a contact number/address for the parish priest. It may also give details of the group and who to contact.
You may also find this information from the noticeboard outside the church or, if it is open, from posters or leaflets in the entrance or from copies of the weekly newsletter.
If you ring the main parish number you may get the parish priest or a parish secretary who will be able to give you details of meetings and put you in contact with someone from the parish.
To find your local parish see Next Steps.
Do I have choice of which parish I go to?
It is good to go to your local parish as it means that you will get to know people who live in the same area as you. However each parish has its own character and some people can find that a different parish suits them best.
If you live in a rural area your choice of parish will probably be dictated by distance whereas in an urban area you may have more choice.
Is there anything I can do now?
Whenever you contact the parish it should be ready to welcome you. Sometimes the group may be having a break but the parish should be able to put you in contact with the team and allow you to make your first steps.
If you have not done so you can explore the different ideas in the Encounters section.
Is there a book I could read?
A good place to start is with one of the Gospels which tell the story of the life of Jesus. There are 4 Gospels. The Gospel of St Mark is the shortest and is generally thought to be the first written. The Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke contain some of the most familiar stories both about Jesus and also told by him. The Gospel of St John is the most poetic of the four. To download copies of these text go to the Scripture page.
The Gospels are found at the beginning of the New Testament which is the second half of the Bible. Most bookshops will have a number of Bibles and the New Testament can be sold separately. Choose one which you find easy to hold and read. There are many translations of the Bible ones to look out for include: Jerusalem Bible, or New Revised Standard Version.
If you want to learn more about the Catholic faith an attractive place to start is YouCat (or the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church). Though it aimed at young people it is easily read by all ages. It gives a comprehensive overview of the Church’s teaching in a question and answer format and this is accompanied by images and short quotations from saints and others. It is a book for dipping into rather than reading from cover to cover immediately. It is published by Catholic Truth Society – ISBN 9781860827280
Do I need to know Latin?
No. Though Latin remains the official language of the Church for its documents it is not something that every Catholic experiences. For some the celebration of the liturgy in Latin and the great heritage of Church music is part of the attraction of the Church.
My Catholic friends uses words I don’t understand – will they be explained?
Any area of life which we are unfamiliar with will have jargon or technical words which are used by those who know but can be mystifying to those outside. This website has a Glossary which may include some of those words but you should also be able to ask in your group about anything you do not understand.
I am a Catholic, my non-Catholic friend is asking me all these questions what do I say?
Do not worry if you do not feel you can answer every question you are a friend not a theologian. Pope Benedict reminds us that first of all we are called to be witnesses to Christ. To be a witness we need to know him and know what difference he makes in our lives. Introduce him so he can become a friend of your friend.
Have a look through the Encounters section of this website you may be able to follow through some of the ideas together.