Becoming a member of the Catholic Church is not as simple as attending Mass. If you are over the age of seven and you have never been baptized, you can become a Catholic through a process called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, also known as the catechumenate.

The Catechumenate

Before you formally begin the Catechumenate, the Church encourages you to study Catholicism, ask questions and decide whether you want to take the next step. This period of learning and questioning is known as the pre-Catechumenate or period of evangelization. If you conclude that you'd like to begin the process of becoming a Catholic, the first step is to publicly announce your intentions in a rite called the Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. Your local church will provide instruction in the Catholic religion. When they decide you are ready to take the next step, you will be invited to participate in the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of Lent. Catechumens who have completed the Rite of Election are referred to as the elect.

The Scrutinies

After completing the Rite of Election, you will be expected to spiritually purify yourself to receive the sacraments during the 40 days of Lent. From the third to the fifth Sunday of Lent, your church will celebrate three rites known as the Scrutinies. These rites focus on self-reflection and repentance for past sins. You will also be asked to learn the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer so you can recite them during your formal initiation into the church.

The Initiation

The night before Easter is known as the Easter Vigil. At the Easter Vigil, you will be baptized, confirmed and given the Eucharist. These are the three sacraments of initiation, and once you complete them you will be considered a neophyte or new Catholic in full communion with the Church. As a neophyte, you will receive further instruction in Catholic teachings until the end of the period of mystagogy, which lasts for the remaining 50 days between Easter and Pentecost.

If You've Already Been Baptized

If you were baptized Catholic as a child, the Church already considers you a Catholic, so you don't have to be baptized again even if you were never confirmed. You can return to full communion with the Church by undergoing confirmation and receiving the Eucharist. Some churches may expect you to go through the Catechumenate process, while others may not. If you were baptized in another denomination, the Church will most likely treat your baptism as valid, but will require you to make a profession of faith in the teachings of the Catholic Church. You may be asked to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation, or you may be expected to undergo a course of instruction without the rites of the Catechumenate.