Oh my gosh... this DID go on and on.. I hope not too long. Sorry. Still.....
Recently, I was led to the Catholic church through extensive studies of most flavors of protestant denominational doctrine and theology, after having been a Protestant for 40 years, and finding I had less knowledge than I'd thought. After discussing the reasons for my own change, and having shared the journey with my wife over the last two years or so, we finally decided that ours would be a Catholic family. Sounds great, right? I thought so too. I still do. but......
First steps: I underwent what I consider to be a miraculous conversion a few months ago, when all this really began in earnest. I made an appointment with the sister who is in charge of the RCIA at our local university parish, (college town) had a very good conversation about what was going on in our lives regarding our conversion, and began the process. I went alone to the very next Mass I was able to attend, just to get a sense of it so that I could help my wife and daughter. It's a pretty informal University church which we like in a way. Of course, there are limited structures in place for families, but there are many families that do attend, especially families with young children.
I'm in an RCIA inquiry class, which I feel is not at the level I'm at, after having been a Christian for 40 years. My wife will soon join that too, and really, needs that conversation more than I do. I don't think anyone has taken any time, or really understands where either of us is at, we were just plugged into the only and limited program they have. It's not like we need to be swooshed up in the arms of the church, (which would have been nice, I admit) but real, authentic interaction and more than a cursory welcome was really missing. To be fair, this all happened during Lent and the holidays, and of course, the students are leaving for the summer and the school year is ending, as well as a change in Pastors this year.
The local parish has 'Sunday School' which is really no more than day-care for children 5 and under, but no other accommodation for children. Our daughter, sadly lacking any early formation, has to go to Mass with us....I'll just say that she lacks the understanding of what's happening to have it be the best possible experience. A little Liturgy of the Word for Children seems not much to ask. This had not been a particularly Christian household for the ten years we've been married. It's only in the last couple of years, as I began to understand my obligation to my family and embraced it that we've come to this. Thanks be to God.
My family and I try to pray the rosary together at least once a day, I do much more often. We often listen to the Divine Mercy Chaplet in song (YouTube) around the house, just because we love it so much. EWTN is on the TV more often than not. We've been to Mass together every Sunday for the last five weekends, and I don't fail to go to the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Night Prayer on Tuesday nights at our local university parish. It's a beautiful service, conducted purely in prayer and song. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
I guess the good news is we live in a major metropolitan area, so there are a lot of choices for us besides the small University based parish where we started. I think the catholic Church has relied for so long on big families that they have lost the skills they need to welcome people like me into the church. Our bishop did say (to much protest) that our parish was not set up for or attuned to families and children. I see now that he was correct, even in the face of the dissension from many young families. He had a point.
We've just returned from Mass at the Basilica downtown. We found it a much more welcoming, and more tuned in to people like ourselves. My wife came back from being blessed during the Eucharist (as a non-Catholic) in tears of joy. That's more progress than she'd made in the previous 6 weeks of going to Mass. We understand that we will have to take time to become Catholic, but if we were not so determined, we would easily have been put off by our initial reception at our local parish, as well as having found two other close parishes nearly impenetrable. Sad...maybe some evangelicals need to teach them how to bring in converts and take care of them?