Becoming Catholic

in , by Mackenzie Elaine Wasilick, May 24, 2020

This weekend marks the end of my journey as a catechumen, or a non-baptized person learning about and hoping to become a Christian, in my case, through the Catholic faith. We had planned to welcome our friends and family at Easter to watch as I became baptized and received my first communion. While our plans look a little different, I am still excited to acknowledge how much I have grown and learned throughout the process. I have chosen my confirmation name, Madeleine, for two main reasons:
  1. Madeleine is a derivative of the city Magdala and of Mary Magdalene. 
  2. Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat. She is known for founding the Society of the Sacred Heart, committing her life to educating women, and for her virtues of humility, wisdom, and charity.

When Andrew and I began dating in 2013, I began attending the mass with his family when we visited and on the holidays I spent with them. I knew very early on that Andrew was 'the one' so I had quite some time to explore the possibility that I may embrace Catholicism as my religion. I say 'embrace' rather than convert because the word convert implies that I am giving up or changing from one thing to another. I didn't really grow up with any form of religion. My family identified as Christians and occasionally attended our local Methodist church, but I was never baptized and we rarely practiced prayer or talked about God within our home. I did love participating in my school's YoungLife program, bible study, and the occasional youth trip. 

I've never been pressured by Andrew or his family to become Catholic. If anyone asks, Andrew is the first to defend that this choice has been my own. Although he likes to joke that I've finally decided I want to go to heaven, he truly has been supportive and never once created this as an expectation. I shared on Instagram a little of the reasoning behind my decision to become Catholic, but in short, I wanted our future family to have a foundation of religion and I wanted to share in the practice of that religion with our future children. I do not agree, nor do you have to, with everything the Church teaches. I recognize that the Church has made mistakes and that people have used religion as a cover for all sorts of hatred and evil. Becoming Catholic doesn't mean that I turn a blind eye to these negative elements, it just means that I choose to believe in the good of what faith and religion can do and choose to move forward in that light. 

What is RCIA?
R.C.I.A. stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Basically, this is the process within the Catholic Church that adults can become members of the faith. The end of the process looks a little different for baptized Christians than it does for those who have never been baptized (like myself), but overall the length and lessons are the same.
What is the process like?
For our program at St. Patrick's in Washington, we met every Tuesday night for two hours beginning in September. The plan was to have our baptism and confirmation at the Easter Vigil then continue classes through May. During class we discuss the week's readings, pray together, and get to ask any questions we may have. We have a program director but are regularly joined by guests such as the parish priest or members of community groups.
Did you have to convert to get married in the church?
Nope! There are plenty of options for couples of mixed faiths or when a future spouse is non-religious. The main difference is that if you are not Catholic, you cannot take the church's communion. You don't even have to have a full mass with communion to be married in the church. We have chosen to do a full mass because it is important to us!
What did you have to do to get married in the church?
Our process was a little complicated due to our long-distance planning. Andrew grew up in the diocese of Raleigh, but his family are parishioners of a different church than the one we are getting married in. The priest marrying us is from a different parish than both of those but still within the Raleigh diocese. To further complicate things, we have two priests we are working with locally in DC - one for marriage preparation and one for my baptism and confirmation. Thus, our process is atypical compared to many couples completing all aspects within one diocese, or better yet, a single parish. 
  • Marriage investigation - a series of questions 
  • One eight-hour Saturday workshop in Raleigh before we moved - this was required by the church and covered topics such as communications, finances, and family planning. Most of the topics were common but there was also a heavy emphasis on Natural Family Planning (which blew my mind - we will not be practicing this mostly out of medical necessity but also because we don't believe in it). 
  • Notarized affidavits from our parents stating that we've never been married before. 
  • Recent copies of our baptism certificates supplied to the church office of where we will be married.
  • Three marriage preparation meetings with our local (DC) priest. Normally this would be done by the priest marrying us but to better accommodate our schedule and travel, we were given permission to complete these in DC. 
  • Two meetings with the priest who plans to marry us, Father Scott McCue. Father Scott is Andrew's former Assistant Principal and is the priest for St. Thomas More in Chapel Hill. We attended their parish while Andrew was completing his law degree at UNC. Upon reconnecting with Father Scott during this time, we felt he would be perfect to marry us. Our meetings with him were mostly to get to know us better as a couple and help him prepare a homily for our ceremony.
  • "Fully Engaged" survey of nearly 200 questions that Andrew and I took individually and will review the results with our priest or a mentor couple from our home diocese. The questions varied from our understanding of gender roles to financial planning to how we talk to one another. 
Here are a few of the things that have helped me learn about the Catholic faith and about Christianity in general. 

Catholic-specific products and resources:
  • Catholic Journaling Bible - The Catholic bible has seven more books than other versions, so I obviously wanted one that had everything. I spend SO much time picking this one out and had my name put on the cover so it felt more personal. The journaling aspect for me is really coloring or simply re-writing verses, but nonetheless motivates me to spend a little more time in the bible than I normally would. 
  • United States Catholic Catechism for Adults - This is THE book used by every RCIA course (to my knowledge). I've been in two programs and both used it. There's lots of history and reflective questions as well as teachings on the Catholic faith. We usually read 1-2 chapters per week for class and walked through the questions within each chapter as group discussion.
  • New Catholic Answer Bible - The best and easiest resource to understand how being Catholic is different than other religions. Pick a topic - pick a question - get an answer. 
  • Laudate App - My favorite ways of learning how to use this were: praying the virtual rosary, using the confession guided questions (the process always freaked me out before), and learning the prayers used during mass.
General Christian resources:
  • Write the Word Journal - Super simple way of getting to know the bible better. It provides one verse per day (undated so you can work at your own pace) and all you have to do is re-write it. It provides some space to journal if you'd like as well! There are different journal options that are themed with verses related to that theme such as: hope, renewal, forgiveness, contentment, joy, etc.
  • Bible Tabs - Simply putting the tabs on made me feel like I knew the bible a little bit better. This Etsy seller makes plenty of color options and has non-Catholic versions too! I ordered the ocean themed ones so the blues would coordinate with my new journaling bible (above).
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