Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Converts: it's your turn!

When I posted yesterday's survey I got a comment from a convert to the effect that the survey was geared toward cradle Catholics--which it was. But it got me thinking that it might be interesting to do a similar unscientific survey of converts to Catholicism as to what effect, if any, mainstream Catholic education had on their conversions.

It should be obvious that people who choose as adults to become Catholic will be learning about the faith somewhere, and most of them also participate in parish RCIA programs as well. But I'm interested in the total picture of what aspects of Catholic education may influence people to become Catholic.

So here are the questions:

1. At what age (approximately) did you convert to Catholicism?

2. Did you ever attend a Catholic grade or high school? If you did, did the education you received there impact your desire to convert positively, negatively, or not at all?

3. Did you ever attend a Catholic college? If you did, did the education you received there impact your desire to convert positively, negatively, or not at all?

4. Prior to your entrance into an RCIA or similar program, had you ever attended a religious education program at a Catholic parish? If so, did it help you along the road to conversion?

5. How did you go about learning about Catholicism prior to the decision to begin the conversion process officially via a parish or priest? That is, did you learn by reading, by talking to Catholics, by participating in online discussions, etc.? Anything you did to learn about the faith should be mentioned here, including anything I didn't mention. :)

6. If you are married, was your spouse a Catholic prior to your conversion? Did he or she influence your desire to be Catholic?

7. If you have children, have you enrolled or would you consider enrolling them in diocesan Catholic schools?

8. If you attended a parish RCIA program, how helpful was it in answering your questions about Catholicism?

Okay, my Catholic convert friends--have at it! And please feel free to add anything you think I should have asked, but didn't. :) Again, I'll approve anonymous comments for this post--there's no need to share personal information with your name attached unless you wish to do so.

And, as with yesterday's survey, please feel free to share this with others if you like!


John Thayer Jensen said...

1) 53
2) no
3) no
4) no
5) Reading for 20 years; Catholics on the Internet for the last year
6) no - we were both Reformed; she had been brought up Anglican
7) We home-schooled. We did enrol our youngest in a Catholic school for two years. It was pretty bad and we pulled her out.
8) RCIA was, sadly, not very good. We had to educate them in a way, although the Sister in charge was very good, but the other helpers varied from clueless to heretical.

Jeff Miller said...

1. 40
2. No
3. No
4. No
5. Pretty much by reading everything in the library I could first covering general Christianity than narrowing down to the Catholic faith. Catechism was especially helpful, both official and one by Fr John Hardon.
6. Yes, she is my St. Monica.
7. Would consider, but already adults.
8. RCIA was faithful, but I had already read myself into the faith (not forgetting grace).

Liz said...

4.No, although my kids youth group attended a meeting at the local parish where the priest answered questions and I attended with them. A few of his answers were helpful.
5.Reading, talking with fellow Catholics, tapes from St. Joseph's communication, EWTN (the books I read, other than books by converts like Scott Hahn were mostly written pre-Vatican II (Chesterton, Belloc, Knox, Newman, etc. the few post Vatican II books recommended by my sponsor or by the sister who ran our RCIA class were singularly uphelpful -Richard McBrien for example)
8.not particularly, it was a hoop I had to jump through, but since I'd read most of the catechism by the time I did RCIA there wasn't a whole lot of questions I needed answered. I did meet some kind of neat fellow converts along the way. However, since our RCIA program relied very heavily on videos produced by people like the aforementioned Richard McBrien, I mostly just suffered through it and offered it up. My kids got more out of RCIA (my daughter especially) than I did. My daughter went through a RCIA at our parish, my son went through it at his University's Catholic Center. None of us really thought our RCIA program was top notch, my son-in-law's program in the army in Germany was apparently much better. Our current pastor has changed around the program dramatically and is using far better materials, reports are the program is significantly better.

Turmarion said...

1: 26 (I'm now almost 49, for reference).

2, 3, and 4: No.

5: There were some acquaintances who were Catholic of whom I had positive impressions, but I mainly learned about Catholicism by reading. Between about 17 and 25 I read extensively on all the great world religions and most of the major branches of Christianity. I began reading about Catholicism in particular beginning around 23--the reasons would be far too complex to go into here, and I don't claim to know all of them consciously.

6: My spouse is non-Catholic, so the answer to each part would be no.

7: My daughter goes to public school--our district is pretty good--but depending on how things change in terms of some of the testing policies, funding, and other issues, and depending on the cost, we'd consider sending her to Catholic school. The local Catholic high school has several programs the public high school doesn't, so that might be a consideration at the appropriate age.

8: For me personally, RCIA was more helpful in terms of helping me see the lived experience of Catholicism than in terms of giving me information, as I was pretty well-informed already. I think for those who knew less it was helpful, as the program at that parish at that time was pretty well-structured and informative.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

A brief note on #7, again with the disclosure and disclaimed that I was born and raised, and remain, Protestant:

I grew up in an area where about half the population was Catholic. For a long time I believed the population of the USA was about half Catholic and one third Lutheran. (Immigrant ancestry: German, Polish, Dutch, for the most part, farther north and west, Swedish, Finnish, some Welsh).

I observed that all the Catholic kids were in public school kindergarten, around half of them went to Catholic schools grades 1-8, then, in 9th grade, a large portion of those who had been in Catholic schools, returned to the public school system. There was far less room in the sole Catholic high school (Xavier), so only the most intellectually advanced and/or well behaved were accepted. The rest were dumped back into the public system, at whatever peril to their souls.

In all fairness to the Catholic diocese and school administrators, this was only a few decades since leaving school for work after 8th grade, or short of 12th, was common. Many of the students' fathers and grandfathers had fairly rewarding lifetime careers in paper mills and as machinists. So, historically, only a minority of Catholic kids needed high school anyway. But it still stuck out by the 1960s. Need I mention that the Xavier students generally instigated most local anti-war marches?

gradchica said...

1. 25
2. no
3. no
4. no
5. I had been a grad student in Spanish literature, so I learned a lot about the medieval and early modern church through my coursework and reading--read lots of clerical poetry and works by priests and religious, such as St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross as well as many lesser-known religious, and lots of St Augustine and some St Thomas Aquinas. I talked with my husband--then boyfriend--who raided the KofC pamphlet rack to answer my questions--and attended Mass with him every week. I spent a summer in Peru with a very devout Catholic woman and attended Mass, weekly group Rosaries, Marian processions, the Corpus Christi celebration in Lima, and spoke with her and her friends about their faith--even attended an Opus Dei meeting with her. I also read tons of online resources like Catholic Answers and listened to podcasts, mostly the Journey Home, Catholic Connection, & Peter Kreeft's lectures.

6. Yes. See above. I tried to break up with him for being "too Catholic", but he convinced me to learn more about the Church before I made any rash decisions.

7. The children are too young for school now. As of now we couldn't afford Catholic school and would consider homeschooling.

8. Very helpful--it was taught by faithful, orthodox Dominicans at a university parish, so they answered everything we could throw at them. Even had am MD give us the scientific/technical part of the NFP talk while they went through the moral part.

John Henry Lamming said...

1. 26 (7 years ago)
2. Public school all the way.
3. State university all the way.
4. I never attended any sort of official program. I met in private with my friend's parish priest, and we asked for some instruction in the faith. She had sort of been raised Catholic (baptism, a few holy day Masses, and then a lot if parental apathy) and I had been raised in a non-religious household. He had us read the catechism and join him weekly for Bible study and discussions about the faith. The weekly studies grew, I got baptized and has first Communion, my friend and I got married, and my wife and I were confirmed a coupe of years later. I think the only official Church programs I participated in were a one-day pre-Cana and a two-weekend confirmation class. Both were nice, but not major events in my conversion.
5. Reading and listening to EWTN. And conversations with priests.
6. Technically, my wife was Catholic, but more of a cultural Catholic than practicing, until we were married. I think I would have found my way home once way or another, but I'm glad she was part of that discovery.
7. Yes. I don't care how heterodox they might be. I went to SFUSD schools, and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, let alone my children. Homeschooling is not an option right now, so it's Catholic school or nothing.
8. No RCIA. I believe I got a better introduction from my parish priest.

GeekLady said...

1. 18
2. Two years of a Catholic HS. It didn't effect my desire to convert* one way or the other, really. The HS was not responsive to my desire to receive the remaining sacraments of initiation (possibly due to interference from my parents) and the catechesis was extremely bad.
3. No.
4. No.
5. It was just the right thing to do. This feels very awkward to try and explain, but when I learned I'd been baptized Catholic, I felt I had an obligation to, at a bare minimum, understand what that meant.
6. I wasn't married when I converted, but was uncomfortable dating someone who wasn't Catholic. I came out of a mixed marriage, and I wasn't impressed with the results.
7. Only if the school was free. What can I say, we're poor. Given a choice, I'd rather homeschool anyway because I suspect it would be better for my son, personality wise.
8. My parish RCIA program was very helpful when I did have questions, but I went through RCIA at Texas A&M, and Saint Mary's is rather an outlier in this respect.

JoAnna said...

1. 22

2. No

3. No

4. No

5. I really didn't start learning about Catholicism until I started RCIA (see #6)

6. Yes. My husband was the one who did a ton of research and discussion with his best friend, a faithful Catholic. He announced his intention to convert, and I was aghast. However, I agreed to go to RCIA with him -- I had no intention of converting at that time, but I figured I would have to know more about it if we were going to raise our (potential) kids Catholic.

7. We would if there was one close enough to us, but the nearest Catholic school is over 45 minutes away. Logistically, it's too difficult.

8. It was helpful, although the supplemental online research I did was also key to my conversion.

My full conversion story is here:

Rebecca in ID said...

1. 21

2. No, but I knew one Catholic in high school, and what she told me about her confirmation (CDD?) class negatively affected me. I remember she thought it was boring and stupid and didn't want to be confirmed but was doing it for her parents, and I told her she shouldn't do it.

3. Yes, I went to a fantastic Catholic College and converted there.

4. No

5.Reading, talking to Catholics, talking to non-Catholics

6. I was not married until well after my conversion and my spouse had no influence on my decision. I was not dating anyone at the time.

7. No way Jose

8. I didn't attend one, but my parents did, and it was very unhelpful. In fact the priest sort of discouraged them at first. The info given was very incomplete and sometimes wrong.

Red Cardigan said...

Again, great comments, all! Sorry for the slight delay in approvals--will be more available tomorrow. :)

Charlotte said...

Can a revert answer?

Deacon Dean said...

1. 21 (I am now 62)
2. No
3. No
4. No
5. Wife is cradle Catholic
6. See # 5. And, it was more of a decision than a desire. As a Protestant I believed that it didn't matter what church you belong to. Since we had just had our first child I thought it would be simpler for her if Mommy and Daddy went to the same church, so I decided to become Catholic. Sadly, for many years I went from being a C&E (Christmas and Easter) Protestant to being a C&E Catholic.
7. Our children attended Catholic elementary schools, and two of the four went to Catholic high schools.
8. RCIA had been approved by Rome, but was not yet available when I converted. I was in the Navy at the time, and the base Catholic chaplain gave me religious instruction in my home.

Nate said...


2. -Never. Lutheran schools. My opinion of Catholicism through grade school and high school was that it was lightweight, since all of my friends from the Catholic grade school and high school didn't know jack about their own religion. I always knew more about Catholicism than they did. It was weird visiting my friend's Catholic church in high school. My own Lutheran church had communion rails and chanted liturgy. Theirs had guitars and homilies about being nice. Very jarring, especially after learning about Catholicism in my Lutheran school as the church of Latin, the scrupulous, and the cowering flagellant. Weird disconnect.

3. -I attended a certain very liberal Catholic college in Minnesota my freshman year (before transferring to a much saner flagship state university), mostly for their music program. In one way, it turned me on to Catholicism, because I loved the tradition and continuity, and the old Catholic iconography in the buildings they didn't use. It turned me off, though, since I saw it as so unnecessary, in that no on there who was Catholic believed anything I didn't as a (by then) secular kid. It seemed like a hobby for those who were Catholic there. I know that sounds mean, but that's what I thought.

4. -No.

5. -Reading and online discussions. And hanging out in old, beautiful Catholic churches, and hanging out when exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was going on. Weird, I know. But that did a lot.

6. -I wasn't married or dating my future wife at the time. After converting I met my future wife--a no-nonnsense conservative Catholic girl who, had I met her prior to my conversion, wouldn't have given me the time of day. :)

7. -I have two small children, and we are going to send them to the local Catholic school. At least for now. Not crazy about the place, but everybody seems nice enough.

8. -The RCIA class itself was pretty lightweight, but the priest was very helpful talking to him independently.

Really interesting reading all of these responses.

Red Cardigan said...

Charlotte--sure! Reverts can answer whichever survey makes more sense for their situation. Some have answered the one below b/c they were raised and educated Catholic before drifting away as adults, but I could see situations where someone wasn't really raised Catholic or the faith wasn't taken seriously at home who might feel more comfortable in this thread. Up to you! :)

GeekLady said...

Technically I'm a revert, since I was baptized such as an infant, but given that I didn't know that until I was twelve (after a confusing day where I had derived that I was Baptist since I was baptized) answering the other survey made no sense.

Boo and Kari said...

1. 54
2 & 3. Public schools and a very conservative Baptisi college.
4. I did participate in a Faith and Justice committee in a small southern parish, about half the members were from Protestant churches and interested in community outreach.
5. I prayed the rosary with my husband when he had a stroke and that drew me to the Church more than anything else. I read everything I could get my hands on and watched EWTN also.
6. My husband and I met and married late in life. He is a cradle who hadn't been to Mass in years until his stroke. So, I guess originally no, he wasn't an influence. After his stroke when he asked me to pray the rosary with him daily, yes he was a big influence.
7. We're too old to have children.
8. RCIA was helpful. Because my husband is homebound, I couldn't attend classes. The handouts were OK. Most helpful were the discussions with the women who brought the literature.

scotch meg said...

I was 19 when I converted. (Wow, that's over three decades ago now!)

Public school, Ivy League college, no involvement with Catholic parishes.

I read "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers," "Karen" and "With Love from Karen" as a teen. I was looking for religion that mattered on weekdays, and faith that sustained and supported families. I was dating my husband, and his family seemed to embody what I was reading and what I wanted. He was what we would both now call a cultural Catholic, but it surely looked good from the outside.

I met with the Catholic chaplain at my university, attended Mass, and read an Image Book history of the Catholic Church. You should have seen the look on the chaplain's face when I asked for it. He held it up by two fingers when he handed it to me. I read the 1970's Dutch Catechism at his suggestion, but fortunately it didn't make much of an impression. God bless him for taking me in and helping me through some tough times. Later I met a group of young couples who belonged to Opus Dei. They did make an impression, taught me the Faith, and got me reading good stuff.

I also eventually recalled a couple of children's novels which must have made some sort of impression on me - "Sun Slower, Sun Faster" by Meriol Trevor and Madeleine Polland's "The Queen's Blessing" and "To Kill a King." Watch out what you give your children to read! Although, of course, I found these on my own; my mother never seemed to notice what I read. I think there were too many books to keep track of.

I have enrolled my children in diocesan schools, public high school, Catholic independent high school, and I have homeschooled them. We have gone year by year and child by child. Right now we are homeschooling.

RCIA program? Didn't exist. Good thing, too.

SAF said...

1) age 44 (4 years ago)
2) no. I grew up in NC and hardly knew any Catholics. Family is Methodist and Baptist.
3) no
4) no
5) reading, online reading, church shopping for 2 years including a year of attending both Catholic Mass and OCA (Eastern Orthodox) Divine Liturgy while attending 14 months of RCIA
6)Husband's original reaction to "checking out" Mass was: "Anything but the %$#! Catholic church!" He was unbaptized and more of a New Ager than anything.
7) 2 children attend diocesan Catholic school. #3 is too young for school.
8) Nearly expired from boredom over 14 months of solid but very, very dull RCIA.

Glad to be here,

Anonymous said...

1. 33
2. no
3. no
4. no
5. Dick McBrien's Catholicism ... yes I know better now LOL
6. Baptized but not raised right. Spouse had absolutely nothing to do with my choice to convert.
7. yes
8. Sorta, but it was vague and shallow
Unsolicited comment: The internet has been the conduit of my ongoing autodidaction in the Faith, including pointing me to non-electronic resources. You could say, flippantly but with some seed of truth, that the internet saved my soul.

Anonymous said...

1. 20 when I started, 21 when I was confirmed.
2. No catholic education
3. Ditto
4. I had never attended anything catholic besides the occasional Mass.
5. I went to Mass with my then fiancé. I read a couple of books, but nothing heavy duty. More like glorified flyers.
6. My then finances family was "very" Catholic, including an archbishop in the family. I was raised by atheist parents and went to a Methodist church on my own. If he had been Lutheren or any other brand of Christian besides fundamentalist, I would have likely become hat religion.
7. Our children attend archdiocese schools.
8. I went through a very intensive RCIA program with weekly meetings of 2 hours, there were about 20 adults in the class and then as many sponsors. We attended all classes which were from September until Easter. It was really great, but I will admit that the priest was extremely liberal. Had he been more hard line or anywhere near ultra traditional, I would not have converted even at the extreme disapproval of my in laws. I only know the church by the way it was taught in that class, and by the parish priest I've had in various places. They would all, every last one, be considered liberal by Erin. .


Anonymous said...

1. 51
2. No
3. No.
4. No.
5. Resisted the pull towards the Catholic Church for thirty years. Started reading Catholic blogs (including yours) around 2008. Had my intellectual and doctrinal doubts resolved (blown out of the water) by the site Called to Communion.
6. No. No.
7. Am currently weighing the options for the youngest two.
8. Not very helpful doctrinally, but it helped me lose a whole lot of 'tude. The Catholic Enquiry Centre booklets were helpful.

eulogos said...

1. Age 21 (I am 61 now.)
2. no
3. no
4. no
5. I was baptized Episcopalian at age 20 and my chief baptismal sponsor was an "Anglo Catholic". He catechized me with a basically Catholic idea of the Church and the Sacraments, taught me the "Glory Be" and the "Hail Mary." (I learned the Our Father in Dutch Reform Sunday school when I was very small.) After that it was all reading and discussion with similarly concerned college friends. Where is "The Church" was the main subject of our intense discussions. I read Newman's Apologia. I even read "Difficulties of Anglicans." I read church histories by Anglicans and Catholics. I avoided the ones by Protestants, and there were none in the library by Orthodox at that time. I read old catechisms and pamphlets. I read Lives of the Saints. I read Bouyer, Chesterton, Belloc, Ronald Knox. I read Seven Story Mountain and other convert stories. My husband was nonbaptized and nonbelieving, and scared of what I was doing.
7. My children went to such schools for a few years of their youth.
8. RCIA had not been invented when I became Catholic. I had "instruction" from a priest, using a very poor catechism. (There was no Catechism of the Catholic Church at that time.) The first priest my friends and I choose was the one who gave the most intellectual sermons, but he proved to be too rigid to deal with students from St. John's (the "Great Books" school) who expected to question and discuss everything. The others finished with him, but I chose a less educated but also less rigid priest to finish with. I think I learned some things from him about the cultural context of Catholics of his era which perhaps helped me to understand the wide swing of the pendulum in the other direction the Church was engaged in at the time. For instance, he told me that a man who was the child of an invalid marriage would need to get some sort of dispensation to become a priest, and then his parents marriage would be automatically validated "because otherwise, he would have to be transferred from parish to parish as people found out." My eyes must have widened hearing this.
He was a kind man, and his faith that the Catholic Church was really really really the true Church, convinced him to accept my profession of faith when a more modern psychologically oriented priest might have decided that I was just all emotionally worked up at the moment and not ready to make a stable committment.

Susan Peterson

MadCow said...

1. 25

2. No

3. No

4. No

5. I studied medieval European History in College and attended the occasional Mass with my Fiancee (now Spouse).

6. My Spouse is a cradle-Catholic. She had an influence, though mostly as a goad I fought against. I DID NOT want to become Catholic until 3 months prior to our wedding.

7. My school-age children attend our Parish School.

8. No RCIA program. My Parish has an odd "Faith Sharing" program, which still brings up more questions than it answered.

Sal said...

1. 32
2. No
3. No
4. No
5. Reading extensively. I did not attend RCIA, except once, in 1977. It was very bad. I was privately received by the priest who tested me thoroughly on what I knew and filled in a few gaps.
6. No and no.
7. No. No.
8. Not applicable