Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 22, 2003
Catholic prism illuminates joy
RCIA graduates keep Christmas with Jesus as their focal point
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Christmas will be different this year for some Catholics, including Echo Dawn Houle, Rob Rondeau and Elaine Tailleur. The three are relatively new Catholics and say that after going through the Rite of Initiation of Catholics program (RCIA), they see Christmas with new eyes.
Houle, who is married for just over a year and is expecting her first child, became a Catholic at Easter to be able to fully join her husband Dan at the Eucharist. After several months of studying the basics of the faith, she says she is now a more mature Catholic, far more aware of her responsibilities as a follower of Christ. "The program changed our lives," she said.
The RCIA also changed her understanding of Christmas. It used to be all about shopping, parties, presents and big dinners. "Christmas is no longer about the material aspects but about the birth of Jesus and about family," Houle said. "Now Christmas has a deeper meaning for us."
The 28-year-old woman used to attend Christmas services and family dinners before joining the Catholic Church but admits she didn't know much about the true meaning of Christmas. "Since I became a Catholic, we spend more time talking about the liturgy and about the experience of the birth of Jesus compared to before when Christmas was just a nice holiday," she said.
"The motions are the same; like we still see our family at Christmas. That hasn't changed. And we still go to church. I think the only thing different is we are spending a lot more time with the religion, with God. And now we use the Advent season to prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ."
The Houles are part-time farmers and will spend Dec. 24 hauling grain at their farm near Westlock. They will probably miss Christmas Eve Mass, but they will be lectors at the Christmas Mass at St. Joseph Basilica the following day. They will also have a Christmas dinner with their families and will donate to several charities.
A student of acupuncture at Grant MacEwan College, Houle has volunteered as acupuncture specialist at the Boyle McCauley in the past and has now decided to go back to the clinic in the spirit of Christmas.
Her husband Dan, a 27 year-old sales manager in Edmonton, agrees the RCIA experience has changed his and Echo Dawn's lives. "It has brought us closer together," he said. "For us, this Christmas will be more about the birth of Jesus than the presents and the whole craziness of Christmas that has engulfed society."
Peace is the best present anyone can receive at Christmas and Echo Dawn said she and her husband will be getting plenty of it as a result of her becoming a Catholic. "We'll be able to go through the Christmas season with more love and more peace than ever before."
Rob Rondeau, a business manager with an Edmonton-based equipment company, also joined the Church in April at the Easter Vigil.
As a result, Rondeau claims to have a better understanding of what the season is all about. It's about giving. It's about working more with the less fortunate and about reaching out and appreciating the children involved in his life.
"We are really making more of a conscious effort to contribute to the less fortunate people this year," Rondeau observed. He and his wife Brigitte will sponsor a needy family from Mother Teresa School this year to make sure they have everything needed to celebrate Christmas.
The Rondeaus have no children of their own but Rob and his wife will make sure "all the children in our lives" have a merry Christmas "because this time of the year is all about the children," he said. "But that's always been our mantra. Seeing the children happy brings joy to both of us."
The Rondeaus will join Brigitte's family for dinner on Christmas Eve and then they will all attend midnight Mass at the basilica. The couple will spend Christmas Day with Rob's family.
"Since my completion of the RCIA, this time of the year has taken on a more joyous tone with my better understanding of Christ," Rob said. "Christmas has always been special but it will be more special this year because of my new-found faith."
Christmas has also taken a special tone for the family of Elaine Tailleur, a Bon Accord mother of two who joined the Catholic Church two years ago. "Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning for us. Christ is now central to the celebration, the main focus."
Elaine and her husband Rene, both Eucharistic ministers at their parish, will attend Christmas Eve Mass with their son Dennis. On Christmas Day the whole family will get together for dinner at daughter Valerie's place.
Martin Melenka, a 37-year-old 2001 RCIA grad, said becoming a Catholic hasn't made much of a difference in the way he celebrates Christmas. He began adding a more Christian tone to Christmas six years ago, when he started attending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses in other Christian churches.
Prior to that, the Vegreville-area farmer celebrated Christmas the traditional way - with a family dinner and the opening of presents. That tradition continues but is not the sole focus. "Now there is more focus on goodness, on accepting Christ at Christmas," he said.
This year, as he did last year, Melenka will travel to Edmonton's cathedral for Christmas Mass.