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 8 Candidates and catechumens: Different Titles for Those on Journeys of Faith. Casey Connor knows that for parishioners outside of RCIA programs, the names and stages of the RCIA faith journey may not be as familiar as other parts of the faith. She explains, “A catechumen is an unbaptized person who is seeking to enter the Christian community and is in the period of the catechumenate, the period between the Rite of Acceptance and the Rite of Election.” She adds, “Once they have celebrated the Rite of Election, they are known as the ‘elect.’” Connor explains that a candidate, as distinguished from a catechumen, is “a person who was previously baptized in another Christian tradition who is seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.”U IN THEIR WORDS How do you respond when someone asks you about joining RCIA, either as a candidate, catechumen, or sponsor? “One of the biggest eye-openers was people were coming from different religious backgrounds. We had people who had no religion, and we had people who were Muslim, Lutheran, [and] Buddhist just within our group. One of the things I appreciated was that [Paul and Casey said] ‘Any question you have, always ask. Any doubt you have, always ask. We might not give you the answer right away or at that moment, but that’s because we want to give you the right answer. We’re not here to judge you, and if you choose to become Catholic, we welcome you and we’re happy for that. And if you choose not to join, we thank you for the opportunity.’” -Ivan Esquivel “RCIA is a time to come and learn. There’s not a timetable. It is a completely safe zone for coming to learn and understand. If you want to learn about something, you go directly to the source. If someone were wavering, I’d say, ‘Jump in, just jump in with two feet.’ Because it’s such a blessing. You learn, and if you go in with an open heart, God will do some amazing things.” -Sara Holcomb Candidates and catechumens dismiss from the mass prior to the Eucharist and study the word of God in their small group. “I didn’t realize the impact it would have in my own personal life as I started this process. I know wholeheartily that it’s making our family have this amazing foundation that we need. It’s opened up communication about things we never spoke much about.” -Sheila Kennedy “It’s been an exciting journey. I came in thinking the exact same thing as [Jon], that it is [going to] be a lot of hard work. But it’s been exciting, and I truly believe that I am grasping religion 100 times better than I did as a little child. I think everyone should go through this process at some point. I think you truly learn . . . it’s a re-education in a sense, and I’m just enjoying every minute of it.” -Ben Koenig
Spring 2018 9 Guiding the Journey: From Inquiry to Renewal Casey and Paul Connor share their own journey as RCIA facilitators meant at the time, but I told him I would think about it and pray about it.” Casey says when she told Paul about it, he was “super excited” because, at the time, he thought RCIA was all about teaching the faith and something he felt called to do. They continued their personal period of inquiry by “sitting in on a few sessions to see what it was all about,” says Casey. “We were kind of naïve about what RCIA was all about, and we quickly found out it was way more than just teaching the faith. It was about helping to build disciples.” Casey and Paul Connor Sacred Heart Parish, Des Moines, Iowa Casey and Paul Connor’s journey as leaders of the Sacred Heart Parish RCIA program echoes the journeys candidates and catechumens take in their own desire to join the faith. Casey describes the initial period of RCIA as “inquiry.” Casey and her husband, Paul, first considered leading the Sacred Heart Parish RCIA program when the prior RCIA coordinator approached her after mass in February 2013. “Out of the blue he said, ‘Casey, I want you to consider leading RCIA.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ I was totally taken aback because I hadn’t participated in RCIA before. It was all completely new to me.” “He felt I had the right heart for it. I didn’t know what that Their combined heart-and-mind approach has guided the RCIA program in the ensuing years. “We’re saved as a people of God.” - Casey Connor Paul observes that not every participant in RCIA has an easy start. “Some of the individuals who have come to the RCIA process have done that despite some family members not being all that excited about it. We’ve seen some challenges. We know they are doing this because it is the right thing to do.” He says the tension and resolution is a bit like the rebirth in Lent. “There is that tension. But what we’ve seen though the process is, they go through [RCIA], it’s a bit of a death there, but there is also renewal on the other side . . . people letting go of some of their misconceptions and misunderstandings of what the Catholic Church is versus what they thought it was.”