Jodie Bjornstad and her sponsor Debrah Slugoski meet Archbishop Richard Smith during the Rite of Election at St. Joseph's Basilica Feb 14.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Jodie Bjornstad and her sponsor Debrah Slugoski meet Archbishop Richard Smith during the Rite of Election at St. Joseph's Basilica Feb 14.

February 22, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Jodie Bjornstad was all smiles when she shook Archbishop Richard Smith's hand during the Rite of Election at St. Joseph's Basilica. "It was awesome," the 27-year-old teacher said after the event.

Bjornstad was one of 165 catechumens, including 63 child catechumens, from across the archdiocese who affirmed their desire to become members of the Catholic Church in two separate ceremonies at St. Joseph's Basilica Feb. 13-14.

The archbishop welcomed each catechumen personally.

Bjornstad grew up in the Catholic faith and attended Catholic schools as a child. But all of that was taken away when she reached age 12. Her new adoptive parents did not go to church and they sent her to a public school.

While in university she realized she wanted to return to her faith and to teach in Catholic schools. So she took a couple of courses that would enable her to do that.

"I knew I wanted to be a Catholic teacher and teach my students about the faith."

She started teaching last year at St. Martin Catholic School in Vegreville. With encouragement from her principal, Bjornstad enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at Sherwood Park's Our Lady of Perpetual Help, her parish of choice.

"At RCIA, I got a deeper understanding of the faith," she said. "They explained more about why. We dove deeper into Scripture. Now there is a deeper understanding about everything."

Bjornstad's RCIA sponsor, Debrah Slugoski, described Bjornstad as "a very anointed person. I believe she has a deep love for Christ and a tremendous eagerness to want to become a Catholic and to teach what she has learned back to the children she works with."

Catechumens like Bjornstad will formally enter the Church at the Easter Vigil, where they will receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

Smith told the catechumens that God chose them to proceed to the Easter sacraments, which means they were chosen to live in companionship with Jesus and in communion with Jesus. "You are chosen, you are loved, you are precious," he said.

When Amanda Garner met her boyfriend Ryan McGregor some two years ago, her life changed, especially after he asked her to accompany him and his family to Mass at St. Albert Church.

'I JUST KNEW'

She felt in love with the Mass, the church and the people. "I just knew I wanted to be baptized and become a Catholic," she said.

"We had talked several times whether she might like to get baptized before we are married and have a Catholic wedding," explained McGregor, an IT consultant.

"She came to a few of the Masses with us and she liked the sense of community she felt and wanted to continue on and do the RCIA program."

Garner enrolled in the RCIA in August.

"I did believe in God but I didn't go to a church," she said. "I didn't have a sense of family anywhere so I guess I wanted to be a part of a bigger family and community."

INITIATION FOR TEENS

Innisfail's Samantha Bennett, 16, was baptized in Ontario as an infant but the family moved to Alberta immediately prior to her scheduled First Communion. So it was put on the back burner until a few months ago when Bennett began feeling that something was missing from her life.

So she found the perfect group to help her in her formation: the Rite of Christian Initiation of Teens, which is headed by Red Deer Catholic and the priests of Central Alberta.

CLOSER TO GOD

The RCIA for Teens brought a total of four to the Rite of Election Feb. 14. Bennett is the only one in the group who is baptized.

Asked why she decided to complete her sacraments, the Grade 11 student said, "I would like to be closer to God than what I am now. I felt something was missing in my life."

Bennett said after completing her sacraments of initiation in Innisfail her plans are to "keep on going to church at Our Lady of Peace Church every week."