How long to come into the Church?


I have a friend who just recently decided she would like to become Catholic. She hasn’t done a lot of studying on her own, but she has gone to mass with her husband the past few years and she has some Catholic friends. I know she believes certain things the Church believes but there are some things she is not there yet. Especially confession and the True Presence. Well she just told me that her pastor told her that they could meet a few times and that she could probably come into the Church at Easter. He said he ran it by the bishop and that it was ok. (I don’t seem to think our bishop would agree to that) That seems a bit fast to me. I think she is well meaning and wants to be Catholic, and she heard my concern and said she knows it’s quick but would like to join and learn more later. I don’t think that 40 days is enough time to study, pray and discern. I am concerned at this point that she doesn’t realize what she’ll be committing herself to. Are there rules and guidelines about minimum amounts of education before becoming Catholic?

  1. Catechumens are not already baptised Christians.

Canon Law (CIC) Can. 788 §1 Those who have expressed the wish to embrace faith in Christ, and who have completed the period of their preliminary catechumenate, are to be admitted to the catechumenate proper in a liturgical ceremony; and their names are to be inscribed in the book which is kept for this purpose.

§2 By formation and their first steps in christian living, catechumens are to be initiated into the mysteries of salvation, and introduced into the life of faith, liturgy and charity of the people of God, as well as into the apostolate.

§3 It is the responsibility of the Episcopal Conference to establish norms concerning the arrangement of the catechumenate, determining what should be done by catechumens and what should be their prerogatives.

Can. 789 By means of appropriate formation, neophytes are to be led to a deeper knowledge of the Gospel truths, and to the fulfilment of the duties undertaken in baptism. They are also to be imbued with a sincere love of Christ and his Church.

The “National Statutes for the Catechumenate,” promulgated as particular law for the Dioceses of the United States by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, states that the period of the catechumenate“should extend for at least one year of formation, instruction, and probation. Ordinarily, this period should go from at least the Easter season of one year until the next; preferably it should begin before Lent in one year and extend until Easter of the following year (n. 6).”
2. Baptized Christians seeking full communion in the Catholic Church.Those who are baptized and catechized have no formal welcome and therefore according to the rite, do not participate in the RCIA. They would have formation in Confirmation and Eucharist and can be received at any time of the year – when they are properly been prepared and discerned their readiness within the faith community – as long as the priests gets permission from the Bishop.


It’s the priest’s decision based on his discussion with her, not your discussions with her.

You were not privy to any conversation between the bishop and the priest so anything you think is pure conjecture on your part,

You should be rejoicing in the fact the priest is working with her.


That’s probably about as long as I took. As CoachDenis says it is the call of the priest, and the Bishop, for sure, but the bishop goes by what the priest tells him. If that’s what they both say there is really no reason for any of us to feel anything other than gratitude that she is ready for and is making this step.

BTW I’d have felt very hurt if anyone had implied in any way that I was coming into the church too fast and not properly prepared. And to have a friend voicing that would have been even harder.


30 years ago I was in a very tiny rural parish. The good Monsignor worked individually with everyone; there was no RCIA “team”.
He brought many into the church.
I suspect this was the way it was done before training was offered for instructors, standards were formed, and norms developed.
If the priest is instructing her himself, HOORAY!
Pray for your friend’s conversion, and be at peace.


Also, the private sessions with her priest may convince her of the True Presence in the Eucharist and ease her mind concerning confession. It could be exactly what she needs at this point in her life. Let the Holy Spirit work on her through her priest.

I and another candidate had sessions last year with our priest, this year i am in RCIA. I have to admit i learned more from the priest than i have in RCIA.


Don’t get me wrong. I am happy that she wants to become Catholic but I am concerned because I know her well (we are best friends and like sisters) and I know that there has been no deep conversations with her about becoming Catholic or what she believes. And there has been no independent study. She even told me I’d rather get it done with and learn more later. This is not something you get done with! It tells me right there that she doesn’t see it for how serious it is. She told the priest one day after mass I want to become Catholic and he said ok I’ll see what we have to do. Then he announces last Sunday that he knows that a couple of parishoners that want to be Catholic and that if they contact him they can be in by Easter. There is absolutely no plan for classes as of yet or any individual meetings. I don’t understand why there is the rush to get it done by Easter. Since she is already a Christian she doesn’t have to come in at Easter (from my understanding) she could come in anytime when she is ready. I feel like you should understand and know what you are getting into. I teach religious education and we expect the sacramental year kids to study for more than 40 days. We won’t let engaged couples get married without at least six months of prep. Why would shouldn’t there be more education before coming into the church. This isn’t a club that you just join because you want to. You should know it, want it, believe it.


But none of us are ever finished! Too many of us think we’re “done” when we’re confirmed or reach some other milestone. But being a Catholic Christian is something that changes and grows every single day.

Then he announces last Sunday that he knows that a couple of parishoners that want to be Catholic and that if they contact him they can be in by Easter.

Ideally RCIA for those who are already baptized, doesn’t have a strict timeline associated with it. It should take as long as is needed, but no longer.

Many parishes run on a school year model. Everyone starts in September and everyone is received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. Some people might need that long, some people might need more time, some people might need far less. But it also isn’t ideal to pick a very short timeline and say that everyone fits into that either.

Unfortunately some pastors don’t really understand RCIA very well and kind of make it up as they go.

Your friend is lucky to have you in her life to be able to continue asking questions and learning.


Kayla, I understand your concerns.

The answer to your question is that each situation is individual and unique. There is no “rule” regarding length of time before one comes into the Church as it is totally individual to the person’s situation.

Ultimately, you will just have to accept that this is completely within the pastor’s discretion. You may not agree with his approach, you are free to voice your concerns to him, but it’s his call.

Regarding marriage, nothing in canon law states 6 months as a requirement. The law simply states that there must be preparation and it is left to the bishops and pastors to determine the norms in their dioceses and parishes. And, while there may be norms that does not mean there can be no exceptions. I’ve seen marriage prep require many meetings, retreats, FOCCUS tests, months, etc, and I’ve seen it very straightforward with a couple of meetings with the pastor. I’ve seen it take a year, I’ve seen it take only a couple of months.

And don’t even get me started on sacramental prep and the numerous, onerous hoops children are being made to go through.

None of these things should be entered into lightly, and the pastor should encourage prayer, study, and reflection. But, ultimately we must be content to acknowledge that this is within the pastor’s discretion.


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