Awakening to Christ and seeking out the Church through the RCIA comes about in a variety of ways. The first step for some is a sense that "something is missing" -- a sense, perhaps provoked by some crisis, that there is more to life than what they now have or a better way to live than how they now live. For many others, the journey begins because of a relationship with a Catholic -- a close friend or a potential spouse. Still others are drawn by seeing the example of a Catholic life well lived, or by exposure to a Catholic writer like St. Augustine, Thomas Merton or Dorothy Day. Whatever the reason for the awakening and decision to seek, the RCIA process is the first step on a lifelong journey of intellectual, emotional and spiritual conversion.
In her book Turning: Reflections on the Experience of Conversion, Emilie Griffin reflected that "conversion" is the process of"turning over one's life and energies to God." While we know that the concept of "turning" is apt -- the root image of conversion is the proverbial "one hundred eighty degree change" -- we also know from our own lives and experience that conversion is an ongoing, lifelong process of personal spiritual growth as well as a social process in which we strengthen and draw strength from others. The RCIA recognizes both the ongoing quality and the communal nature of conversion, providing an intellectual and spiritual framework and a faith community in which an individual's conversion experience can be understood and supported. Caring for people in the midst of this life-changing experience is the goal of the RCIA ministry.