BECOMING A CATHOLIC
There are four stages in the process of becoming a Catholic. The first stage is called the period of evangelization. This is the period in which all sorts of influences are acting upon, often through the example of friends or relatives or colleagues, things you have read, things you have heard. Gradually , or in some cases suddenly, you begin to realise that there is something in this Christianity, Jesus begins to make some sort of impact on you, you begin to feel called and you make some formal step towards accepting Christ. Perhaps you might start coming to Mass, observing what is going on, then you come to the stage when you approach the priest and say that you think you would like to become a Catholic.
The next stage is the period of the Catechumenate. You have now become regular in attending Mass on Sundays and you join the RCIA* group when it starts. In most parishes a group will start each year and will lead up to Baptism at Easter. During this time you study together the Catechism, learning about the faith, the sacraments, and how to live the life in Christ and about prayer. The group will normally meet every week. It is a very exciting time as you begin to understand the wonder of the Catholic faith and enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
The third period is called the period of Purification and enlightenment and is usually entered at the beginning of Lent. It is a time or more intense purification as you turn away from your old life and prepare for Baptism at Easter.
The rites of initiation take place on Holy Saturday night when you are baptised, Confirmed and receive Christ in Holy Communion. Then you enter the final period called the period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy. During this period you start to reflect on what the Lord has done and appreciate his goodness towards you and to live the life of grace.
It may be that you are already baptised, perhaps a practising Christian, but not a Catholic. Normally you would join in the RCIA* group and participate in a way that parallels those preparing for baptism. However there may be variations to fit particular circumstances.
* Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults