Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 28, 2009
Church community urged to embrace RCIA
Fr. Michael Koch tells RCIA information workshop a Catholic's actions, words, influences others
Fr. Michael Koch
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
SHERWOOD PARK - Parishes should strive for a "whole community approach" to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, says Father Michael Koch, a pioneer of catechumenate in Western Canada.
Koch, director of RCIA Ministries for the Saskatoon Diocese, spoke of a man at his parish whose wife had an aneurysm. She couldn't speak and was confined to a wheelchair. The man brought his wife to Mass every Sunday without fail.
Another fellow, who had been contemplating divorce, attended Mass and observed this troubled couple.
SAVED BY EXAMPLE
"The fellow said that every time he came to church and saw this man bringing his wife, an invalid really, and the kind of love he showed for her, the sacrifice he was making for her, he decided there was no reason why he should divorce his own wife. His marital problems were not half as big as theirs," said Koch.
Koch said the story shows that every Catholic has influence over others. Actions and words are observed, and then imitated.
For example, the parishioner who leaves immediately after receiving Communion teaches others unknowingly that this is proper behaviour for a Catholic. The RCIA is the responsibility of all the baptized, the entire Church family, he said.
INFLUENCE ON OTHERS
"We have a responsibility to the catechumens and our children for what we say and do, the influence we have on others. That is a very important element to develop."
Parishioners who guide others on the process to becoming a Catholic gathered Sept. 17 for a RCIA workshop at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.
Koch, longtime chairperson of the Western Conference for the Catechumenate, led an evening of information and formation for new and veteran RCIA ministers. A second workshop was held Sept. 18-19 in Legal.
Heather Reimer and her family are new converts to the Catholic community, going through the RCIA process two years ago.
Her conversion has influenced others. Her husband's parents, both over 80 years old, have since joined the Church, and more of their family members are also looking to join.
A PEBBLE IN THE POOL
"It's been a family process, so it's been interesting to watch, and I guess gratifying in that sense to take a new direction and walk in faith as God shows us to walk in, and see how that triggers something in other people to search deeper too," said Reimer.
She has been helping with RCIA at St. Thomas More. She aids pastoral assistant Monica Bober with the children's program.
"It's very exciting to see these children come to a personal knowledge of their faith and relationship with Jesus Christ, and also to see their families.
"Last year we had three or four whole families come into the Church all at once. It's a very wonderful experience to help those individuals walk through that process and establish their faith, and understand more deeply what it is that the Christian faith is about," said Reimer.
Diana Boisvert, from OLPH, was a sponsor for her sister-in-law, a catechumen. Her sister-in-law wanted to join the Catholic faith, so the two of them journeyed through the process together.
"I am also a convert. I went through the process quite a few years ago, and then I decided I wanted to go back and get some answers that I'd missed. Something, I felt, was missing.
"I told my sister-in-law that I was going to go back into the RCIA system and get these answers," said Boisvert.
Through the process, she received reassurance of familiar concepts as well as greater insight into less familiar ones.
"A two-year commitment was pretty long, and I just need a bit of a break to spend time with family. But the RCIA process is awesome - it's very fulfilling," said Boisvert.
"I thoroughly enjoyed it (RCIA), and I may go back in because I like the idea of being able to help others who are lost and looking for a way back and finding a connection with God and Christ."
Koch said that his primary aim was to have the 50 or so participants leave the workshop with a greater enthusiasm for RCIA.
One key message that he left is that RCIA is a process, not a program. Programs come to an end and people revert to their old ways of life. But a process - especially ones that are ongoing and follow the liturgical calendar - never ends and people follow it until they die.
HE'S ALWAYS THERE
Koch recommended that finding God in everyday life is another important component of the Christian journey, and something that must be incorporated into the RCIA process.
"The Paschal Mystery is not just the dying and rising of Christ, but it's the dying and rising of us too. Everything in life we can interpret from that point of view.
"Tonight the sun goes down and the day is over, it's gone. Tomorrow morning the sun will come up again and a new day is born. The signs of dying and rising are all around us, small and big."