Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 5, 2007
Seekers trod many paths before RCIA
Catechumens come with their own unique faith stories
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"I just felt like an outsider looking in and I wanted to belong to the faith."
- Asheley Cowie
Msgr. John Hamilton, administrator of the Edmonton Archdiocese, presided at the Rite of Election, welcoming each catechumen individually.
Why did Asheley decide to become Catholic?
"It's my fault," replied her husband Greg, who accompanied Asheley through the RCIA process. "When we got engaged I said 'You know, sweetie, I want to get married in the Catholic Church because I want my marriage to be recognized by God and I said in the Catholic religion that's just the way it is.'"
Asheley agreed. In the seven years they had been dating they had never discussed the issue.
They married last July at St. Matthew's with Father Leo Hofmann officiating. The pastor's sermon convinced Asheley she had to take the step. But during the ceremony she didn't feel she belonged.
"I understood the vows," she said. "I just felt like an outsider looking in and I wanted to belong to the faith."
A month later, Asheley was enrolled in the RCIA, learning the basics of the Catholic faith together with Greg. "All I can say is that this journey has absolutely been wonderful in my relationship with my husband and it has been wonderful in developing my relationship with God," she said.
During the Rite of Election, the Church announces the names of those who will celebrate the sacraments of initiation-Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion - at the Easter Vigil.
Unlike previous years, this time the Rite of Election was celebrated only for catechumens or unbaptized, who will receive all three sacraments of initiation. These individuals enter the cathedral as catechumens and leave as "elect."
In previous years, the Rite of Election had also included those who were baptized but not members of the Catholic Church.
Before greeting each catechumen individually, Hamilton welcomed them as a group and assured them they are not alone in their faith journey.
"Our catechumens don't journey alone," he said. "Rather, they share our journey through Lent."
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Msgr. John Hamilton greets catechumen John Perneel, centre, and his friend and sponsor David Folk
He then asked the Lord to "protect all who are about to become your children and continue to bless those who are already baptized."
Once the catechumens had expressed their readiness and willingness to complete the final steps of their Christian initiation, the archdiocesan administrator went down the aisle and greeted each of them individually and discussed their faith journey.
"Dear catechumens, I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil," Hamilton said later. Then he prayed to God to accept them. "Lord God, bless all your adopted children and add these chosen ones to the harvest of your new covenant."
"The reason I love the Catholic Church is because of the diversity."
- Brenda Raynard
When Hamilton asked Brenda Raynard about her faith background she said "Confusion" - a word she believes summarizes her past life.
As a teenager Raynard didn't attend church regularly and when she did go, it was to Protestant churches.
"But one day I got disillusioned with God and Jesus and Christianity and I just threw it all aside in my late teens," she recalled in an interview. "I started searching not too long afterwards. I considered everything from Judaism to Buddhism. I searched it all."
She went on a quest until four years ago when she met James Fowler, a Catholic from Assumption Parish. He talked to her about the Gospel and gave her a book called Addiction and Grace. At the end of the book there was a line that said, "Throughout your whole life God loves you; he is just waiting for you to love him."
That changed everything for Raynard, an Edmonton artist and mother of two adult sons. "It was like a thread. I picked up a thread from that book that led me through many different media and literature and films. It kind of tied it all up together with a single thought."
Attending Mass soon became what Raynard and Fowler did on a Sunday. "As I attended church with him, I began to see the richness of the Catholic Mass."
Raynard enrolled in the RCIA at St. Joseph's Basilica last year because she wanted to belong to a downtown parish. "The reason I love the Catholic Church is because of the diversity," she said.
John Perneel, another catechumen from St. Joseph's Basilica, is also looking forward to being baptized at the Easter Vigil. For the 31-year-old Edmonton contractor it has been a 10-year journey spurred by the example of his mother Jane and his friend and sponsor David Folk. Jane was baptized a Catholic 10 years ago and Perneel has been attempting to follow in her footsteps ever since.
He started reading the Bible and coming to church with his mother and David but didn't do much about joining the Church. That was until last September when Perneel enrolled in the RCIA process. He said he has learned a lot about the faith as well as about being patient with people, being forgiving and doing acts of kindness.
"I feel my whole life has changed," he said. "I think I'm ready to become a Catholic."
So is Sabrina Fitzsimmons, who has been preparing for Baptism through the RCIA at St. Dominic Savio Parish in northeast Edmonton. "I feel like I'm part of a community now."
Fitzsimmons said all members of her family became Catholics at one point, except for her. "I didn't choose to become Catholic because I wasn't ready at the time."
But she said she felt ready to join when her deeply religious mother died of cancer in her arms last Halloween. "That totally put a different perspective in my life. . . . This has been a great experience," she said.
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