|St. Peter's Square in Rome|
Most Catholic churches around the country begin their RCIA classes in the fall. My parish, for example, starts their classes in September. RCIA is an opportunity for those that want to present themselves as candidates for baptism to learn the ins and outs of the Catholic Faith.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains (via their RCIA site) that RCIA:
outlines the steps for the formation of catechumens, bringing their conversion to the faith to a greater maturity. It helps them respond more deeply to God's gracious initiative in their lives and prepares them for union with the Church community. This process is meant to form them into the fullness of the Christian life and to become disciples of Jesus, their teacher. This includes an initiation into the mystery of salvation, the practice of faith, hope, and love, and other virtues in a succession of liturgical rites.
Persons baptized into another Christian church and now seeking full communion with the Catholic Church are also welcomed to participate along with catechumens in the RCIA in the process of learning about the Catholic faith and being formed in that faith. They bring to the process of preparation their prior experience of Christian life and prayer. For a baptized Christian, reception into full communion with the Catholic Church involves reception of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and then a Profession of Faith followed by the celebration of Confirmation and the Eucharist.Each candidate's journey will look different dependent on their previous spiritual formation, but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a helpful Q&A site about the RCIA process.
Once you know the basics of the RCIA process, the next step is finding a Catholic church near you where you can begin your journey. Search online for your Catholic diocese's (or archdiocese's) website. With any luck, it will be up-to-date and list all of the Catholic parishes within the diocesan boundaries. Contact the nearest parish by calling the parish office and inquiring about starting RCIA classes in the fall.
From here, each parish will vary in how they go about the process. Regardless of where you are, you will be offered literature, resources, and meetings with various parish personnel to equip you on your journey with the information and prayers that you need before classes begin.
Once you begin your RCIA classes, you will be paired with a "sponsor" who will attend classes with you and serve as your mentor during the RCIA process. A sponsor is "called to show the candidates good example of the Christian life, sustain the candidates in moments of hesitancy and anxiety, bear witness, and guide the candidate's progress in the baptismal life."
So, whaddya think? Still on the fence? Keep asking questions! Now's the time to tackle your biggest hang-ups with the Catholic Church. Enlist a well-catechized Catholic to help you find the answers to your questions. If you don't have a friend that can serve in that capacity, or if it's the wee hours of the morning and you have a question you need answered, check out Catholic Answers' site Catholic.com. Second to the Vatican website, this is the second most frequented site related to the Catholic Church. This site has it all--tracts on sticky issues, discussion forums, a blog, an online library, archived episodes of the 2-hour daily radio show Catholic Answers, etc. (The Catholic Answers daily radio show is a phenomenal, unintimidating resource for those exploring the Faith. All of the shows are rich in content, but I highly recommend that those skeptical of the Catholic Church listen to a Q&A Open Forum for Non-Catholics episode.)
Another fantastic resource is Catholics Come Home. Whether you are non-Catholic, a non-practicing Catholic, or you're a Catholic hoping to learn more about your faith, this site has plenty of information to help you along your journey!
Please use the comment box below to pose any questions or offer additional resources for those investigating the Catholic Church. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org as well!