Catholic Candidates

The subculture I would like to research for my Ethnography is that of Catholic Candidates. The varied backgrounds of people that come to discern whether or not to enter any religion makes for an interesting topic of research. In some cases Candidates are potential converts from other faiths, and having come from a completely different religion at times pose interesting questions that a person coming from a Christian faith may not even have the need to ask. Conversely, some people may have been born into a Christian faith that nevertheless views things somewhat differently, thus making their questions equally interesting. There are also Catholics that have simply for one reason or another never become full members of the church & need to attend RCIA class as a Candidate in order to complete the process. The potential routs to a journey as a Catholic Candidate are numerous, as are the individual processes of discernment that they each undergo.

For the purposes of researching Catholic Candidates as a group, I would like to attend the meetings they conduct at my local parish for them every Tuesday. Having undergone the process myself as a Candidate not more than two years ago I have a good working knowledge of how the classes are structured. I intend to passively observe while classes are conducted & acquire information by means of taking thorough notes of discussions in the class meetings. I intend to focus on testimonials in particular. Recording information on these different testimonials will help to form a picture of what it is that prompts one to become a Candidate. I would also like to conduct one on one interviews with as many of the Candidate members of the class as would be willing to participate. I would like to determine what the specific questions are that they ask in order to make up their minds about joining the church. This will help define any common thread they all may share in the experience.

Classes generally consist of at least twenty five people. I believe I could easily engage enough people in the interviewing process to obtain a sufficient cross section of the class population as a whole. The classes last a period of several months before the celebration of the Easter holiday, by which time the Candidates have made their decision to join the church or not. During this time the informants I interview will be learning the many customs and traditions of the church. They will explore the philosophy and doctrine that make up the basis of the Catholic faith. I hope to find out how they question the new information they are given in this discernment period and how it plays a role in their decision making process as it pertains to joining the church. This will allow my research to glean enough information to clearly depict the cumulative experiences that make up the Catholic Candidate's culture.

I have the permission of the Priest that is Pastor of the parish I intend to do research at to attend these classes and interview the participants. I also have discussed the research project with the instructors of the class and have the promise of their full cooperation. I would like to use them as secondary informants and include them in the interviewing process as well. I believe that their descriptions of the process that Candidates undergo would be invaluable in gathering my information and forming a clear view of the Catholic Candidate subculture. The class will be informed of my presence from the beginning and will have been made aware of my purpose in being there as well. Any information voluntarily given without my request will be given weight as well as well as the questions I pose during the individual interviewing process. Only those who are comfortable will be interviewed.
It has been my experience that people in these classes are more than willing to share their stories and I believe that knowing that I am a current member of the church will ease any concerns they may have with regard to being interviewed by me.

Through compiling this data I hope to paint a clear picture of the entire process from beginning to end. I would like to show what it is that makes a person chose to become a Candidate, the period that they undergo the decision making process, all the phases involved along with their thoughts and activities related to them. I would like to document the things they find beneficial to the process as well as the things they find problematic. I think that this group will make for an interesting research subject and with the strategies I have in place for collecting information I should be able to convey a clear picture of what it is to be a Catholic Candidate.

Above is an interview I conducted with a Candidate we'll call "Kate."
The Catechism of The Catholic Church is a book Candidates and Catholics use. It contains a wealth of information on all things Catholic.
Some handy Catholic terminology.

Anna's story is a good example of what it's like to be a Candidate.