Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 8, 2004
Bus driver on a journey
He's one of 270 ready to become Catholic at Easter
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
When bus driver Alan Marchak picked up passenger Jolene Gaulin two years ago, he didn't know he was picking up a new faith as well.
As he started dating Jolene, Alan, a former United Church member, followed the woman and her family into St. Albert Parish. They did their marriage preparation and later got married there. Alan says he liked it all so much, he decided to become a Catholic there as well.
On Feb. 29, Alan took a big step on his faith journey as he celebrated the Rite of Election with Archbishop Thomas Collins at St. Joseph's Basilica.
He was among 270 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults candidates and catechumens from 42 parishes across the archdiocese who affirmed their desire to become part of the Catholic Church.
Close to 1,200 people, including candidates, sponsors, catechists and guests attended the two weekend celebrations held to accommodate the large group.
The Rite of Election ceremony is the official call for catechumens and candidates to begin final preparation for Easter sacraments of initiation, namely Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, explained Sister Annata Brockman, a member of the archdiocesan RCIA team.
She said the ceremony is also a great opportunity for the candidates and catechumens to meet the archbishop and be welcomed into the archdiocese.
Catechumens are non-baptized adults who want to receive the sacrament of Baptism in the Catholic Church. Candidates are those who have received the sacrament of Baptism in a Christian faith but will receive Confirmation and Eucharist to complete their initiation sacraments.
As in previous years St. Joseph's Basilica brought the most candidates and catechumens to the ceremony with a total of 29.
Before greeting each candidate individually, Collins welcomed them as a group and challenged them to make their commitment public.
"Now that you have been hearing the voice of Christ for some time, it is for you to express your intention clearly before the whole Church," he told the catechumens as they stood silently before him. "Do you wish to receive Christ's sacraments of entry into his Church, the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist?"
"I do," the catechumens replied in unison. Candidates also expressed their readiness and willingness to complete their Christian initiation with an "I do."
Alan Marchak was beaming when he shook the archbishop's hand. "It is certainly a big day for me," he said later. "The first time I asked Jolene out I didn't know I would be doing this today but it kind of progressed to here. One step led to another."
But, as he now knows, God works in mysterious ways. When he started dating Jolene three years ago, Jolene's family was in the process of becoming Catholics and attended church regularly. Alan decided to tag along.
"My becoming a Catholic was a process one way or another," he said. "It all evolved over the last three years."
Soon Alan and Jolene were engaged and in October 2002 they attended marriage preparation at St. Albert Parish. They married in May last year and he enrolled in the RCIA last fall. Jolene became his RCIA sponsor.
"I liked what I saw, I guess," he said in an interview. "I just enjoyed going to the Church. I liked the message of the faith."
"I'm honoured that he came to my faith and that he believes the same thing that we believe in - the Catholic Church," said Jolene, who became a Catholic last year. Her sister Charlene Gaulin is also expected to join the Church at Easter. They were among 11 from St. Albert Parish attending the Rite of Election.
Jasmine LaPointe, 24, decided to enroll in the RCIA at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Devon after she and her fianc‚e Fadi Tohme realized they had everything they wanted except for a spiritual life.
Even though Jasmine was raised in a Christian home, she rarely prayed or attended church. "We didn't do a lot of religious stuff," she recalled. "We didn't practise religion."
That changed in May 2000 when she started dating Fadi, also 24. Fadi began exposing his girlfriend to the faith as much as he could. He had been baptized as a child, had attended Catholic schools and had attended church regularly until he completed high school.
As the couple started planning their future together, they realized they had a void in their lives. So they started going to church.
During a community awareness event, Jasmine learned she could become a member of the Catholic Church through the RCIA, which she joined last October. Fadi became her sponsor.
"The experience was very spiritual," Jasmine said. "It answered a lot of our questions."
Being welcomed into the Church is a "big step" for Jasmine, one of three catechumens from St. Maria Goretti attending the Rite of Election. "It brings more serenity to my life, it brings more spiritual growth into my life, it brings more peace and joy," she said. "This day will be a day to remember."
Jasmine and Fadi will get married Sept. 18.
David Kindopp, 25, an insurance advisor from Red Deer, said his journey started in 2002 when he started dating his longtime friend Lori Koppel, now a nursing student at the University of Calgary.
At the time Lori was attending the University of Alberta and the two would go to Mass at St. Joseph's College every time David visited her.
"When we got more serious, I brought up the subject of what if I joined the Catholic Church," he recalls. "I was born and raised Seventh Day Adventist but hadn't attended Church regularly probably for five years."
Lori agreed and David enrolled in the RCIA at St. Stephen Parish in Lacombe, Lori's hometown.
He feels the RCIA supports and enhances the faith he has already developed as an Adventist. "This will not only make our relationship stronger but one day when we raise a family it will definitely help us with the spiritual development of our children," David said. He and Lori are to marry on Aug. 6, 2005.
"It means the world to me that he is joining the Church," Lori said. "I guess it is a symbol of his love and it means the world that we are able to share the same faith. It's very special."
Courtney Reeves' journey began about two years ago when she met her now fianc‚e Sterling Sparshu. They are both studying at Grant MacEwan College, where they lead the college Catholic club.
"When I started going out with Sterling I started to go to church with him because it was really important to him and I wanted to share that with him," she said. Prior to that, Courtney, 19, attended different churches in Leduc.
Courtney enrolled in the RCIA at St. Michael's Parish in Leduc last fall and said the process was enlightening. "I learned so much," she said. "I really liked it and people there are awesome."
Being welcomed into the church by the archbishop was "really exciting" for her. "I feel more of a member of the Church now," she said. "The archbishop is a really friendly guy. He is so easy to talk to."
Sterling was excited too. "The fact she is joining the Church means all the world to me," he said. "It's made my life a lot easier having someone that I can talk to and share my faith with." Courtney and Sterling plan to get married May 7, 2005.