I have been helping people enter the Catholic Church for 15 years at St. Francis of Assisi and from time-to-time people ask me, “Why do people convert?”

It’s a good question and it’s not so easy to answer.  People’s journeys to coming to know Jesus and deciding to become a disciple are as diverse and unique as people are themselves.

But in my experience, there are some common denominators that cut across the varied ways people come to Christ and to the Church. Some people are moved by a book they read, or a movie they watch, or YouTube videos they see, and they start to know about Jesus through those media.  Other people grow up around and among Catholics and they have a familiarity with the Church even if they are not members.  Some people are not baptized but they have parents or grandparents who are faithful members of the Church, and sometimes they feel like becoming Catholic is a homecoming to a family tradition.  Other people fall in love with someone who is Catholic, and they are introduced to the Church by their significant other. Some people are simply seekers by nature, who are looking for meaning in life.  The journey starts in all different kinds of ways.

The of points of entry can be wildly diverse but at some point, these journeys find common elements:

All seekers (which the Church calls “inquirers” because they start to ask questions about Jesus and the Church) at some point come in contact with disciples who impress them or even inspire them. People become attached to someone who is already Catholic: a significant other, a friend, a relative, a colleague – and they are attracted to something about that person that they like.  Converts often point to sense of joy, or an inner of peace, or wisdom, or compassion, as qualities that they like, and they see in Catholics they know.

In other words, people lead people to Christ.  The journey may start with a book, or a curiosity, or a speech or whatever, but people who actual convert always speak of a “someone” who then brings them to Christ.

This personal witness is a primary and crucial part of the spiritual journey into the Church.

The second part of the journey is just as important: the prospective convert encounters a community of disciples who embody Jesus’ message.  By the time a potential convert meets the flesh and blood people of the Church they usually already know at least a little bit about Jesus’ message of love, compassion, inclusion, welcome, healing, and mercy. If they experience these qualities being lived in the community, the journey usually continues.  If they meet a community that is lukewarm in living Jesus’ message – or worse – a community that embodies judgment, bigotry, injustice or – God forbid – even hatred, then their journey usually stalls.  The witness of the local community is crucial to new people coming to know Jesus.  We must be what we are called to be:  Christ’s very body in the world.

All of this is to say, people convert because they experience the love of God flowing through the people who are already anointed with God’s Spirit.  In my experience when people encounter Jesus himself, authentically embodied in His’ disciples, they fall in love with God, and they realize the truth that God loves them – and all of us – first and always.

The Church calls the journey of conversation the “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults” (RCIA) and I have had the privilege of directing this ministry at St. Francis for 15 years.  I do not do this ministry alone.  I work with a team of committed volunteers who, I believe, are called and gifted for this ministry.  But I am acutely aware that the RCIA ministry team, which works very hard all year, does not introduce our inquires to Christ by ourselves.  It takes the whole Church, living, breathing, with flesh and blood and gathering in the local community – to bring someone to Christ.  Our ministry team can do nothing, unless everyone in the pews at St. Francis is doing their job to live as faithful disciples of Jesus.  The ministry of evangelization ministry belongs to all of us.

So why do people convert?

Fundamentally, people convert because we are doing our best to be Christ’s disciples – individually and as a parish community – and people come to know, through us, that God loves them.

Yet, people still need to be invited.  People come closer to the Church because a member of the church takes the risk and invites someone they know, who they believe may be interested in exploring further, to come and take a look.  If we find love and life in Christ, we have to be willing to invite others to share the abundant life we have been invited into.  The invitation should always be gentle, and without any coercion, but we should be ready to invite because sometimes people are waiting for an invitation.  If they are interested, that’s great.  If they are not… that’s fine too.  At the end of the day, the call comes from God and God has his eye on all of us.  We don’t have to worry about where anyone’s journey goes.  We just need to embody the love of God whether people stay or go.

“The harvest is plenty” says the Lord, “but the laborers are few.”  Well folks… if you are reading this… you are one of the laborers.  Let’s rejoice in the abundance of the harvest and do our part.

-Joseph Nuzzi
Director of Evangelization
Church of St. Francis of Assisi


So here is an invitation from me:

Are you interested in exploring Catholicism for yourself?

Do you know someone who might be interested in finding out more about our faith?

Were you baptized in another Christian church and are thinking about joining the Catholic Church?

Are you Catholic but never received Confirmation or First Communion?

Our RCIA will begin on Tuesday, September 12, 2022 but I’d be happy to talk to you about questions at any time.

Our RCIA meets every Tuesday from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM beginning September 13th.   These classes are designed for people who may or may not be sure that they want to join the Catholic church.  We present a comprehensive overview of Catholic faith and traditions designed for adults.  Anyone inquiring into the Catholic faith may attend these sessions with no obligations.

The RCIA is free for anyone exploring Catholicism.

If you would like to find out more about our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, please contact me:

Joseph Nuzzi
Director of Evangelization
212-736-8500 x365