Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 17, 2003
Church to welcome 229
Future Catholics take a stand for faith at Rite of Election
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
When Mike White, 23, is ready to raise his own family, he wants to raise his children as people of faith.
He wants a family that goes to church on Sunday and participates in the faith life of the community. But he does not belong to any faith community.
That's why he decided to journey in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at Edmonton's St. Thomas More Parish.
White is one of the 229 people called to be baptized and/or confirmed at the archdiocesan Rite of Election held at St. Joseph's Basilica, March 8-9.
The Rite of Election is celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent. It is the time when the Church formally ratifies the readiness of candidates and catechumens for the sacraments of initiation.
Called elects, they will be baptized and/or confirmed and receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist during the Easter Vigil on April 19.
White, who will be baptized and confirmed, has always wanted to do this.
"The journey is almost over. I'm almost a Catholic," said White. He has had a positive experience as "everybody in the parish is very welcoming."
Raised by his mother on her own, White never went to a church. The first time he went to a church was with the family of his best friend. His best friend's dad asked White if he wanted to go through the RCIA.
"I was not ready yet and I said, 'I'll think about it.'"
Then he met his girlfriend Andrea Patershuk, 19, who is a Catholic. He decided to begin the journey and asked Patershuk to be his sponsor.
Patershuk said, "It's been amazing. . . . We made a lot of friends. Even if I am a cradle Catholic, I learned so much about my faith."
In his homily, Archbishop Thomas Collins encouraged the people to look beyond their journey.
To illustrate his point he told a story of men in Europe, who were chipping stones. One of the workers was asked what he was doing. He replied, "I'm building a cathedral."
"Each of us is called to chip away stones, but also called to the deeper awareness of the adventure of the disciples of Christ."
He emphasized the importance of prayer, fasting and almsgiving - activities that are stressed especially during Lent.
The need for quiet prayer everyday to see the majesty of our mission is crucial in order to clear away what blocks our vision, said Collins.
"You should keep in mind when reading the Gospel, it speaks to us of the great adventure of the disciples of Christ."
Shannon Zacharias, 25, of Holy Heart of Mary Parish in Viking and Heather Siemens, of Edmonton's Santa Maria Gorretti Parish, are both preparing to get married.
Zacharias, originally a Protestant, said her journey had been interesting and she learned a lot about the Catholic faith.
"Coming to the Catholic Church was like coming to a totally different world. There's just so many stereotypes made about Catholics. And I found out they were wrong," Zacharias told the WCR.
For the sake of her fianc‚ she decided to check out the RCIA. She did not want to become Catholic without learning what she was embracing. "Many questions later, here I am."
Learning about the Catholic Church has taught her much about Jesus also - not just about the Catholic tradition.
What's refreshing about her journey is the sense of security because the Catholic Church has been the same since it began and never wavered from its path. Because that's the case she became convinced "God works here."
Coming to the Catholic Church, Siemens didn't know anything about it.
"It's been a rewarding journey and I learned so much."
One reason she embarked on this journey is because she's getting married.
"I wanted to be of the same faith as my future husband. I want our children to grow up knowing God. So I decided if he was Catholic and I do not belong to anything, it would be appropriate to be part of this Church."
Waiting 3 years
Cathy Gerry of Stettler has been journeying for almost three years.
"It has been long, . . . extremely long," Gerry said. She was divorced and had to get her marriage annulled before she was received as an elect.
"The first two years were really insightful because we had big groups and we get a lot of insights when we talk about a lot of things. I had a really good community that supported me all the way."
She described her experience as becoming "part of the church without becoming part of it."
"Sometimes it's alright actually, but sometimes you feel excluded. But overall, it's to one's advantage because you become part of it in a way that you get to look at it from an outside perspective."
Now she is prepared to celebrate all the sacraments of initiation.
"God has always been a part of my life. He's my director. He always has been."
She feels God is directing her to be a member of the Catholic Church and to fully participate in Christian life.
Stan Tomlinson of Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove/Stony Plain said, "It's really amazing coming to a church this big and seeing many people. This journey has been a great learning experience. Basically we're just cutting our teeth. What we've learned we have to take for the rest of our lives.
"We're starting with baby steps, but I believe we're heading in the right direction."
Tomlinson has been around Catholics all his life. His wife is Catholic and all his in-laws. His father came from a Catholic background.
"It's been always there but I never really looked at it. I'm really looking forward to my initiation - it's been an amazing experience."
Eager for Eucharist
Amanda Chisholm, one of the elect from St. Joseph's Basilica, "enjoyed finding God and finding her spirituality."
She was going through a difficult time in life. Her friend Carly brought her to church after a long time of not visiting one.
"I felt completely at peace. I love the feeling I had and I wanted to have more of it. That's when I actually decided to take my spirituality seriously. I feel wonderful. I feel like God is standing with me."
She can't wait to receive the Eucharist and be a full-fledged Catholic.
Carly Couture is Chisholm's sponsor.
"It's a very special thing to do and I feel close to Amanda and I feel I've connected with her on a more spiritual level. This has not been only a journey for her but for me too.
"I feel very grateful and honoured that she asked me to be her sponsor. I hope that she keeps that special relationship with God and her spirituality, peace, happiness and everything good that comes with finding that relationship with God."
Red Deer's Laura Lynne Haldane of St. Mary's Parish said her experience is incredible but hard to explain.
Her non-Catholic husband has even come to join in some of the RCIA sessions. "I didn't think that would happen."
She has been following a Christian way of life and has a lot of Catholic friends.
"I just knew it's what God wanted me to do. I am looking forward to the day that I will be baptized."
John Buttrey's first serious contact with Catholics was through the pro-life movement.
He was baptized in the Baptist Church and just before entering the RCIA he was attending the Mennonite Church.
"My journey probably started 20 years ago. I got involved in the pro-life movement, where I met some Catholics. One of them is my sponsor," said Buttrey of Sacred Heart Parish in Edson.
Buttrey is becoming a Catholic because he believes in the Catholic Church and its faith. He is also strongly attracted to the stand of the Catholics about the dignity of life, the sanctity and importance of marriage and family.
"It's difficult for my family and some friends. It's almost like I'm a traitor to them in a way. It's really hard for them to understand. I think I've got about 50-50 support now."
But he believes his journey is a work of the Holy Spirit.