Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 1999
The road to the Father
For some, RCIA is but the latest step on a long journey to God
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Sometimes the road to the Father takes a detour through St. Albert.
For the 13 men and women in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Albert Parish, the trip thus far is revving them up for the long haul.
It is a stepping stone to understanding the faith, enriching the spiritual and building a unity with God. These experiences, sprinkled with constant soul-searching, moves participants through the RCIA process.
"I had nothing to believe in before this," said Bonnie Biollo. "I'm a lot calmer now, easy going. I'm not a wreck all the time."
Biollo attributes these changes to the newfound relationship she's built with God through RCIA. A bond she and some of her fellow RCIA participants have strengthened since September, when they began their weekly gatherings to discuss the Good News.
Biollo is among 299 candidates and catechumens from 36 parishes across the archdiocese who affirmed their desire on the first Sunday of Lent to join the Catholic Church.
RCIA prepares participants to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist, usually during the Easter Vigil. The process can take up to a year depending on the individual and their readiness to advance to the next step.
It gives participants time to establish and build trust with other participants and group leaders. The goal is to move through the sacraments of initiation into a post-baptismal catechesis or mystagogia (a Greek word signifying a deepening of faith).
Biollo's interest in the Catholic faith stemmed from her husband Mark, who attends church regularly.
"She was like a kid in a candy store," Mark said of his wife's first visit to church with him. "She was asking me questions about everything. I didn't know all the answers."
His lack of answers prompted his wife to seek them out herself. She found them in RCIA.
"I had this old-fashioned view of the Church," said Bonnie Biollo, who grew up in a Catholic family, but remembers attending church only once when she was three years old.
"I thought it was this strict place. They would condemn you if you came in late for Mass . . . or you had to get all dressed up for church. But it's not like that. It's very relaxed.
"I feel like I belong here."
Stories like Biollo's - of new and renewed faith and spiritual discovery - abound in every member of the RCIA process at St. Albert's. Confidence was exuded in the words they use to explain their intentions and purpose in joining RCIA.
Saeed Dabbagh was baptized in the Syrian Orthodox Church. He and his wife Sharon had been attending Baptist services for more than a decade. The encouragement of their children, who were involved in RCIA in previous years, spurred the couple to join.
Shona Eldering's three children were baptized in three different United churches because she couldn't settle on which parish she felt more at home in. After her children attended Catholic schools, she sought a better understanding of the faith.
Jennifer Lubbert went to Catholic schools. Her fiance is Catholic. The faith was "always in the back of my mind," Lubbert said. RCIA was naturally the next step.
These are the stories that bring people to the Church. But for those already there, RCIA has been a morale booster.
There are no weekly public announcements promoting RCIA in churches. No billboards are posted in church hallways and city streets to pull participants in. A small reminder on the back of the parish bulletin lets parishioners know RCIA is offered along with other Church programs.
"You're an adult stepping into this," said Mark Moulds, who celebrates his first anniversary as a Catholic this Easter. "No one forces you here or says you should do this. You're making an educated decision. It's a growing process."
Perhaps it is the acceptance into the community of St. Albert Parish which has made the process easier for the participants. Perhaps it is their belonging to a Christian family that is not related by flesh or blood, but by a common faith. Whatever the case, the end product, the discovery and commitment to the Father has made "the ring complete."
"It feels like home," Saeed Dabbagh said. "You're not just coming to a church. I know this is my family. I belong here."
But the RCIA process not only gives, it also takes. From Eldering, it has taken the anxiety that sometimes accompanies a mother in keeping her children safe.
"I use to get really stressed, especially when my kids got sick. It used to really worry me. Now I know that whether they're here or up there, they will be taken care of.
"Not that I want them to die anytime soon, but I know that he will take care of them too."