Becoming a Catholic is the most joyous experience that someone could experience, for it is accepting the Way, the Truth, and the Life--Christ himself. Becoming Catholic means that someone is choosing the way of Christ over the way of the world; he or she begins the process of conversion that will last a lifetime, but will hopefully lead him or her into salvation and eternal life with God.
The sacraments of initation--Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist--are necessary for complete unity with the Catholic Church, for all Catholics. The process of becoming initiated into the Church looks different, depending on how many of these sacraments have already been received.
There are five main stages for those wishing to enter the Church who have not been previously baptized. A preliminary stage is called inquiry, in which the candidate starts learning more about the Catholic Church. The other main steps follow:
The preparations for baptized Christians looks very different from the preparation for those who have not baptized. Thus, it is important to make sure that the two are not confused. Because these individuals are already baptized, they are not considered catechumens, and so do not need to go through the same preparation; for example, these individuals should not participate in the scrutinies. The amount of instruction they receive in the Catholic faith depends on how much instruction they have already received. Sometimes all that is necessary is instruction in Catholic doctrine; this will need to be determined on an individual level. These individuals should receive the sacrament of Penance prior to entering the Church. Furthermore, after a period of probation, these individuals who have already been baptized should not be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, but at some other Sunday liturgy.