Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 6, 2009
An Easter to remember
In Sherwood Park's OLPH Parish, 17 candidates and catechumens are preparing to become Catholic
Warren was baptized in the United Church. “I didn’t have a lot of religious background. We went to church, but it sort of stopped through grade school,” he said.
Prior to joining the RCIA, he was unsure what to anticipate, but admits that he now enjoys the classes for their openness and the willingness of others to share their experiences. They receive instruction in the faith as well as in Church practices, customs and traditions.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I guess I thought that I would learn more about the theory of the Catholic Church, its structure and stuff like that. My relationship with God has grown, and I didn’t know how fulfilling that would be.”
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process through which interested adults are gradually introduced to the Roman Catholic faith.
The beginning stage of the RCIA process is called a time of inquiry or pre-catechumenate. The other periods are the catechumenate, enlightenment and purification, and mystagogy. These stages affirm to the community that a person is ready to move on his or her journey towards the Easter Vigil.
Holy Week is a hectic time for the future Catholics. Three catechumens will be baptized and fully initiated during Easter at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. During the liturgy of Baptism, the new members of the Church are reborn in the freshly blessed water.
“Easter is a very busy time, especially for our elect as they go for the Rite of Election” on the first Sunday of Lent, said Gaudet.
“It means a lot of involvement for people because there’s a lot of activities and events around that time. Easter and Lent is a big preparation time for the Catholics themselves, but for our catechists and elects as well.”
The parish’s pastoral assistant, Bonnie Kirk, said that the parish works with a year-round model.
The RCIA is a communal process, Kirk said, and involves stages punctuated by liturgical rites to aid the potential convert towards the final rite at the Easter Vigil when they will become full members of the Church.
At the Easter Vigil the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and first Eucharist takes place.
Choosing a sponsor is an important decision for the potential converts. The sponsor serves as a guide. The choice should be made with prayerful consideration.
It is usually a person the candidate or catechumen admires because of their unquestionable faith, and someone who walks closely with God.
The classes are also a time for the candidates to share their testimonies of why they have decided to become Catholic and how their lives have been guided by God.
Ellen McKeller, another RCIA candidate, was a lifelong Lutheran but was moved to become a Catholic after attending last year’s Easter Vigil with her sister. v“When I inquired about the Catholic religion, I found out a lot of the things were different than I had first learned,” she said. “I found the Catholic tradition so rich. I was immediately drawn to it because it was so rich.”
She attended RCIA classes in the United States, but said the instruction was more benign and less structured than in Sherwood Park.
“We never knew what we were going to do next, but at my church now we always know what we’re doing next,” she said, praising Kirk, Gaudet and Martinez for their guidance.
Asking the Virgin Mary for help in her journey and other welcome changes awaited McKeller.
“They were more rich and deeper in the Scripture than I had ever thought. I attended a lot of Masses and I was actually quite surprised at what they taught,” she said.
“There is so much stuff that I didn’t know (when I was a Protestant). I didn’t about Mary that much. I didn’t know about praying to saints for their intervention, and talking to Jesus.”
McKeller will become a Catholic at Pentecost.
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