Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 25, 2002
RCIA opens eyes to a brand new world
259 preparing to enter Church at Easter Vigil
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Before journeying with the RCIA, Christmas for Sherry Constantin has always meant presents under the tree and other outward signs and symbols of materialism.
For the first time, Constantin, 32, celebrated last Christmas knowing that "it is about the birth of Christ."
"RCIA has been a real eye opener. It opened my eyes to a whole new world that I never knew existed," Constantin said.
Constantin is one of 140 catechumens and 119 candidates whose names were written in the book of the elect during the archdiocesan Rite of Election at St. Joseph's Basilica, Feb. 16 and 17.
The Rite of Election is celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent. It is the time when the Church formally ratifies the readiness of the candidates and catechumens for the sacraments of initiation.
Thus, they become elect, and in turn express their own will to receive the sacraments at Easter. These elects will be baptized and/or confirmed at the Easter Vigil on March 30.
Constantin's children inspired her to start the journey. "Along with that I just felt that something was missing in my life. And there was a sort of a void there and I didn't really know what it was."
She told the WCR she started attending church, because her children go to a Catholic school, and she was prompted to go with them. This eventually helped Constantin to realize that what she "needed is to find a space to deepen (her) faith."
Coming to Holy Family Parish in St. Albert was helpful for her. "Holy Family Parish has a huge sense of community. If you want to know Church and community, that's the church."
"Everybody is very open, very welcoming. When I started in RCIA, they presented it as come and see, and I came and I enjoyed what I saw so I continued.
Catechumen Lee Burkholder, 25, thinks he has "always lived a Christian life" but joining a community, which he felt comfortable with inspired him to enter the RCIA at St. Joseph's College.
"I felt I belong," Burkholder, who has been attending the college parish for a year, told the WCR.
When he went to other churches years ago, he felt like he was a visitor from somewhere. When he came to St. Joe's, he "really felt the sense of community."
"And that did it for me because I felt a sense of peace come over me," said Burkholder, a medical student at the U of A.
Burkholder first came to the chapel of the college with his girlfriend, Shauna Hollingshead, 22, who is a Catholic.
Hollingshead, another medical student, is sponsoring her boyfriend. "The journey has been exciting," she said.
"Over the months that I have journeyed with Lee, I've learned so much, especially those things that I did not know about my faith," she said.
Devouring textbooks in medicine was a passion the two shared, but since the RCIA began the couple now pray and read the Bible together.
For Burkholder, the journey has been enlightening. "For me it was very much like I'm filling a hole in my life by getting educated about the Catholic faith."
Archbishop Thomas Collins presided at the Rite of Election.
In his homily, Collins told people from different parishes in the archdiocese, to shun the temptation to sin and to embrace the grace of God's love.
"Temptations to sin are like illusions, they are not what they seem to be. So shun illusions and embrace reality," Collins said.
"We're sinners but there is the grace of God and the dimness of sin can be cleared under the blue sky of God's grace."
For catechumen Lynn Roden, 52, of Delburne, "The journey has been absolutely awesome. I can't even put it into words."
"It's been uplifting, healing, rewarding. And I thank God for calling me and bringing me to the place where I am right now and I look forward to the journey to the end."
She attended a Live-In two years ago. "It just totally changed my life. It's just been up ever since."
After that experience she thought that it was high time that she discovered more about the Catholic faith.
"To know that God's loving hands are always there, that God has called you by name and has so much love for you is so awesome."
Though baptized in the Anglican Church, Marie Brennan, 52, from Stony Plain has been attending the Catholic Church for many years because her husband and daughter are both Catholic.
She got to know a lot about the Mass and always enjoyed it.
"(But) I found that just attending church with them and not participating in the Eucharist, I was missing out."
"I often said to (my husband) I don't know why I'm here. That's why I'm making the journey and I've learned a lot."
Understanding Catholic teachings gave Brennan an "inner peace."
"I don't know if that's the right phrase but the more I understand, I pray better. My prayers have certainly improved."
"It's about companionship and knowing that you share the same questions and hearing what you believe and what you feel in somebody else's voice and that they feel the same as you do. That tells me that I am not alone."
Like Brennan, Greg Eberhart, a 44-year-old baptized Christian, has been attending Holy Family Parish for many years.
He has contemplated becoming a Catholic for almost 20 years since his family has a Catholic background.
"It's about time to bring more spirituality into my life, more faith into my life to complement the other parts of my life."
"It's been insightful learning about Jesus, the Church and meeting other people who are also searching."
Jamie Anderson, 15, of St. Anthony Parish in Lloydminster, said, "It would have been a lot harder to go through this by myself and not have the support that I have. Having people who know about the faith helped me."
She has been attending a Catholic school for years. Now that she has moved forward in her faith, she is constantly praying for the day of her Baptism and Confirmation.
Her mother, who was baptized last Easter, has been a real help for Jamie. "It is always good to share with other people who wanted to profess their faith."