Thank you for all the very helpful answers! I’m still at a point of investigation, although I feel I’m getting closer and closer to actually deciding to formally begin the process of conversion. However all of your answers have prompted a new question. Several of you mentioned being validly baptized, and going through RCIA and entering the Church at the Easter Vigil, however, I was under the impression that already-Christian converts to the RCC were NOT to be enrolled in the RCIA program (although they likely would attend RCIA classes unless the pastor…
By the way, what exactly is the meaning of the term “pastor” in a Catholic context? Aren’t RC pastors, priests, who are called Father (although sometimes they use the title Rev. in writing, but might use other titles like Monsignor?
…were to choose a different level of instruction and canidates were specifically to be confirmed at a different time to avoid the confusion of the already-baptized candidates with unbaptized catechumens?
The USCCB says:
Coming into full communion with the Catholic Church describes the process for entrance into the Catholic Church for men and women who are baptized Christians but not Roman Catholics. These individuals make a profession of faith but are not baptized again. To prepare for this reception, the people, who are called “candidates,” usually participate in a formation program to help them understand and experience the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Some preparation may be with catechumens preparing for baptism, but the preparation for candidates is different since they have already been baptized and committed to Jesus Christ, and many have also been active members of other Christian communities.
Taken from usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/who-we-teach/rite-of-christian-initiation-of-adults/ emphasis added is mine.
EWTN gives a more detailed response:
Because they have already been baptized, they are already Christians and are not catechumens. Because they have already become Christians, the Church is very concerned that they not be confused with those who are still in the process of becoming Christians. In its National Statues for the Catechumenate (hereafter, NSC), the U.S. Conference of Bishops stated: “The term ‘catechumen’ should be strictly reserved for the unbaptized who have been admitted to the order of catechumens . . . *and never used of those baptized Christians who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church” (NSC 2).
"Those who have already been baptized in another Church or ecclesial community should not be treated as catechumens or so designated. Their doctrinal and spiritual preparation for reception into full Catholic communion should be determined according to the individual case, that is, it should depend on the extent to which the baptized person has led a Christian life within a community of faith and been appropriately catechized to deepen his or her inner adherence to the Church" (NSC 30).
For those who were baptized but who have never been instructed in the Christian faith or lived as Christians, it is appropriate for them to receive much of the same instruction in the faith as catechumens, but they are still not catechumens and are not to be referred to as such (NSC 3). As a result, they are not to participate in the rites intended for catechumens, such as the scrutinies. Even “[t]he rites of presentation of the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the book of the Gospels are not proper except for those who have received no Christian instruction and formation” (NSC 31).
For those who have been instructed in the Christian faith and have lived as Christians the situation is different. The U.S. Conference of Bishops states: “Those baptized persons who have lived as Christians and need only instruction in the Catholic tradition and a degree of probation within the Catholic community should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate” (NSC 31). For this reason they should not share in the same, full RCIA programs that catechumens do.
The timing of their reception into the Church is also different. The U.S. Conference of Bishops states: "It is preferable that reception into full communion not take place at the Easter Vigil lest there be any confusion of such baptized Christians with the candidates for baptism, possible misunderstanding of or even reflection upon the sacrament of baptism celebrated in another Church or ecclesial community . . . " (NSC 33).
Rather than being received on Easter Vigil, "[t]he reception of candidates into the communion of the Catholic Church should ordinarily take place at the Sunday Eucharist of the parish community, in such a way that it is understood that they are indeed Christian believers who have already shared in the sacramental life of the Church and are now welcomed into the Catholic Eucharistic community . . . " (NSC 32).
It is therefore important for Christians coming into the Catholic Church to coordinate carefully with their local pastor and/or bishop concerning the amount of Catholic instruction they need and the exact timing of their reception into the Church.
Taken from ewtn.com/library/answers/how2.htm emphasis is mine.
For those of you who joined the Church after being baptized in another Christian denomination, what was your experience like?