Spring 2018 edition of Home Faith magazine. An outreach publication of the St. Joseph Educational Center in West Des Moines, IA.
Rebirth Home Faith Magazine - www.SJECIowa.org 4 Home Faith Season of Rebirth: RCIA and Lent The Lenten season reminds us of death and rebirth. During this time of renewing our life in Christ, candidates, catechumens, and their sponsors share their journeys of faith in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). The stories and journeys of adults joining the Catholic faith are as varied as faith life itself. A common initiation of the journey is the beginning of a serious relationship that may lead to marriage. For catechumen Sheena Laughlin and her fiancé, Ivan Esquivel, the topic of faith was connected directly with the topic of marriage. Esquivel opened the conversation between the two of them. “I think it started when I mentioned my beliefs in marriage. I told her ‘I want [marriage] to be through the Catholic religion—through my faith.’” Esquivel went on to tell Laughlin why that was important to him. “For me there is only one person, and there is no such thing as divorce. The commitment I’m making is to you and to God.” As Laughlin reflects back, that conversation was both refreshing and eye-opening. “I didn’t grow up in any of this. My mother is Catholic but I wasn’t raised Catholic. I don’t have any religious background whatsoever, so I’ve always wanted something like that. So to hear him say that and to see his family be so vested in their faith and have it show— it was amazing.” Ben Koenig shares a similar story. “I’ve been engaged now for about a year and my fiancé is a very devout Catholic. The idea really came as we started dating. As the relationship grew and got more serious, one of the things I wanted to focus on was making sure we had . . . faith similarities.” Koenig says that before meeting his fiancé, he was a practicing Lutheran but once he met her, it just made sense to become Catholic. “Once we knew in the relationship that this was serious, it became very important to us to have that conversation.” “Once we knew in the relationship that this was serious, it became very important to us to have that conversation.” Ben Koenig - Candidate Laughlin and Koenig have supportive partners in their faith journeys. Their respective finacés are Catholic and are eager to answer questions and talk about their faith. In addition to that support, the Sacred Heart Parish RCIA program matches each candidate and catechumen with a sponsor from the parish. Casey Connor, Sacred Heart Parish RCIA Director, talks about the rite. “There is a book that specifies how RCIA is to be done, not necessarily program-wise, but principles. If you look at that, the parish is the primary instructor or educator or lead of RCIA. Some of the ways that is done is getting people of the parish involved as sponsors, as team members, and as prayer partners.” Cindy McColley is Laughlin’s RCIA sponsor. McColley attends the weekly sessions, answers questions for Laughlin, and
Spring 2018 5 guides her to resources to help her as her faith grows through the RCIA experience. Although sponsors and catechumens are matched by the RCIA program leaders, Laughlin notes how quickly her fiancé, Esquivel, bonded with McColley and says she prayed for McColley to be her sponsor. The bond between all three is evident. McColley says she and Esquivel often talk about the benefits of RCIA beyond the candidates and catechumens. “Ivan and I will share back and forth that we’re both cradle Catholics, and sometimes I think that cradle Catholics need to take RCIA because we learned so much about our faith when we were 7, 8, and 10 years old.” Adding, “You’re 8 years old, looking at your First Communion and your First Reconciliation. You know at that level what it means, but you don’t know [what it means as an adult]. And then you kind of go along like a sheep. You don’t have the adult mind-set of what you’ve done.” For McColley, being a sponsor in RCIA has filled in some of the missing depth of learning from her earlier years. “That’s what being part of RCIA has done for me. It’s strengthening my faith and giving me the adult ability to stand up and evangelize.” While RCIA teaches the Catholic faith, participants also say there is fair amount of un-teaching, too, such as overcoming false, preconceived notions. As Laughlin explains, “I grew up outside the Catholic faith, assuming that it’s super strict. That you can’t have any freedom and you can’t have any fun per se. It’s very rigid and by the book.” “It’s strengthening my faith and giving me the adult ability to stand up and evangelize.” Cindy McColley - Sponsor “I was always afraid because I’m not baptized and I thought I would be judged. But it’s not like that. It’s very welcoming.” Sheena Laughlin - Catechumen Laughlin says she began with a certain mind-set about the Catholic faith, but that quickly changed as a result of her RCIA experiences. “I was kind of shocked that it’s not. It’s welcoming. I was always afraid because I’m not baptized and I thought I would be judged. But it’s not like that. It’s very welcoming.” Like Laughlin and Koenig, Sheila Kennedy’s marriage and family prompted her to begin RCIA, albeit later in marriage. Kennedy says, “I wanted unity with my family. My husband and his family are Catholic, I am not. My children go to Sacred Heart school. I started this process a few years ago thinking this was what I wanted as my son approached his First Communion. I wanted to be part of those sacraments with him.” A series of smaller steps led to bigger steps in Kennedy’s faith journey. “We began going to mass more regularly about five years ago. It was very enjoyable. The first person we met walking in the door, [at] the first mass we attended as a family, was Father Hess. It was so welcoming. I knew it was the right place for us.” As Kennedy continued attending mass, and as her children grew, each step led her closer to beginning RCIA. “I wanted to be more in tune with our family, giving my son and our daughter that foundation for life.”