"Convert" Revisited

14 thoughts on “"Convert" Revisited”

  1. Rita, I even hear some RCIA team members, who used to belong to another denomination, call themselves “converts.” Maybe if we all think real hard, we can come up with another way of designating such folks. Perhaps we could make use of “née,” as some married folks do when they want to reveal a former identity.

    “Hi I’m Jane. I’m a Catholic née Methodist.” 🙂

  2. Nick, I’d love to see a new coinage. It’s too bad that nee means born! And to quote Aidan Kavanagh (whose words are even more immortal than those of Ron Oakham), “Unlike those of other persuasions, Christians are made, not born.” How about former?

  3. Coining a word is very hard to do. It may be best to avoid using a noun at all. “Are you a convert?” “No, I was already baptized when I joined the Catholic Church.” That’s a better description.

  4. Hi, my name is Jim.

    I like to describe myself as a Catholic by Choice.

    I became a Catholic in 2000 after being in the Church of Christ for ten years and the Southern Baptist church for twenty-five years. I never thought of myself as a “convert” (even when some who were in my RCIA group called themselves “converts”) as I always considered converts as those who convert from other religions such as Judaism to Christianity. I chose to become a Catholic because of all that the Catholic Church is. After eight years, and in all of it’s Truth, History, and Tradition the Catholic Church is still unfolding something new in Herself for me every single day. I believe I made the right Choice!

    Thanks,

    Jim

  5. Some might like the adjective “completed”, as Deacon Alex Jones does: “When I became Catholic, I did not cease to be Pentecostal; I became a completed Pentecostal.”

  6. Ken,

    Thanks for offering another example. It’s great that Deacon Jones has found fulfillment of his Pentecostalism in the Catholic Church. But I wouldn’t recommend the expression “completed” for general use. Although it’s intention is to affirm the background of the person who became Catholic, it could come across as quite the opposite: a put-down. “I’m complete, you’re not.” When we talk about these things we should, as much as possible, put ourselves in the shoes of the person we are talking to. How will that person hear what we are saying? Will we seem to be puffed up with pride? I like to talk about the ongoing journey of faith because it suggests that none of us is complete yet!

  7. What about calling them “homecomers”? Scott Hahn somehow makes reference to that word in his book, “Rome Sweet Home.” The EWTN Program, “The Journey Home” also makes reference to that.

  8. Hi Marvin. Interesting suggestion. For me, though, I don’t think it works. Not all of those who are received into full communion think of themselves as coming “home.” And there is also the possibility of confusing those from other traditions with returning Catholics who are, indeed, coming home.

  9. I love this. It reinforces the universality of our faith. One of the things I love most about our faith is that we do consider non-Catholic Christians as our brothers and sisters in Christ. We do this even though some Christian denominations do not regard Catholics as “Christians” at all. I am proud of our Church for reminding us that the center of our faith is Jesus.

  10. Wouldn’t a better descriptor be “to be in communion with” the Catholic Church? I believe the Church teaches that our Protestant brothers and sisters are indeed our family, but not in full communion with the Church? I agree that words like “completed” or “converted” are inaccurate or triumphal-sounding. When others accept the Catholic faith, they enter into full communion.

  11. Rita Ferrone

    KM, thanks for your comments. Coming into full communion is indeed a precise and helpful way to describe what happens. The question before us, however, is a little different. We are searching for the right word for the person whose biography does indeed include two “families” or phases in their Christian life. How to say “I’m Catholic now, but I used to be a Methodist” without saying “I’m a convert.”

    Maybe there shouldn’t be a single term, and it ought always to be a description. Maybe we need to guard against wearing our faith history like a football jersey, to say which team we’re on. But I continue to muse about this because so often people do reach for a word that corresponds to their experience, one that is different for better or worse from that of “cradle Catholics” who absorbed the Catholic ethos from their earliest memories.

    By the way, I think the term “cradle Catholics” for those baptized in infancy is charming, whereas “born Catholic” drives me up the wall. No one is “born Catholic” or indeed born by nature as any type of Christian — we enter the communion of faith “by water and the Spirit.” In this sense, Christianity has always been different from both Judaism and Islam. But that’s another discussion.

  12. Hello Rita,

    Just came across this thread again, and I am very glad to see it is still alive. Looking back at my post, I am surprised at myself for (a) not seeing the triumphalism it could suggest and (b) giving the slightest hint that I think there is any such thing as a completed Christian on this earth. My experience coming into full communion with the Catholic Church a few years after conversion *to Christ*, having experienced vibrant faith in a nominally non- or inter-denominational evangelical community, and sharing that faith with converts *to Christ* within many other denominations, was frustrated by just those sorts of attitudes in our RCIA program (among other issues).

    I think that realistically no short label for any of us will ever convey the meaning and substance of our journeys through faith, and that only conversation can. Thanks for adding to it.

  13. Ken, I’m glad you returned to add these later reflections to the conversation. For the record, I couldn’t agree with you more when you say, “no short label for any of us will ever convey the meaning and substance of our journeys through faith… only conversation can.”

    I suspect the reason why this thread, begun in 2008, is still running three years later (!) is that the issues remain important.

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