RCIA: An end and beginning

| Julie Pfitzinger For The Catholic Spirit | March 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

When the 14 members of this year’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults class at St. Mark Catholic Church in Shakopee come together at the parish on Easter Vigil, April 23, for full initiation into the church, in some sense it will be the end of their journey, but in many ways, it will be just the beginning.

Since September, the group, comprised of folks attending St. Mark, St. Mary and St. Mary of the Purification, both also in Shakopee, has been meeting every Monday night for the catechetical portion of its instruction.

Mickey Redfearn, programs director and RCIA coordinator at St. Mark, along with Father Tim Norris, pastor at St. Mark and Father Peter Wittman, pastor at St. Mary and St. Mary of the Purification, all take turns leading the classes.

Redfearn began serving as a catechist for the RCIA program at St. Mark’s in 2000 and assumed the role of RCIA coordinator in 2008 when the three parishes combined their RCIA programs.

Mass is primary teacher

“During the year, the candidates and catechumens are also encouraged to attend Mass every week since the Mass is the primary learning tool for people who want to become Catholic,” said Redfearn. “Once Lent begins, we no longer meet on Mondays, but we attend Mass together and then dismiss after the readings and the homily to break open the Word.”

This year, the program has eight candidates — those who have al­ready been baptized — and six catechumens — those who have not yet been baptized — in the class. Red­fearn said the number of catechumens is slightly higher than usual.

There is no “typical” candidate or catechumen. Ages of the participants traditionally range from the 20s to the mid 40s, which Redfearn believes “definitely adds richness.”

“Often we have people in the program who are engaged to be married, or people who have kids in Catholic school but who are not Catholic themselves,” he said. “When their children get to second grade and are preparing for first Communion, this can bring parents to the church.”

Others may be individuals who grew up Catholic, but “have drifted away over the years and want to come back,” said Redfearn.

As members of the group at St. Mark grow closer to becoming fully initiated into the church, Redfearn also believes it is important for them to see themselves as part of the larger church, so they all attend the Rite of Election at the Basilica of St. Mary in Min­nea­polis on the first Sunday of Lent.

“It is very emotionally inspiring to see people gathered together who are prepared to be baptized at Eas­ter,” said Redfearn. “I have found it brings courage and inspiration to my own faith.”

Redfearn recalled a mo­ment of inspiration that occurred last year, when one of the catechumens in the RCIA program at St. Mark was a high school senior.

“There were many parishioners who told me they were inspired by seeing this young man baptized at the Easter Vigil. He had made the decision to become Catholic be­cause it was important to him,” said Redfearn.

It is the members of the three parishes that Redfearn relies on to help encourage potential RCIA candidates. Past candidates and catechumens are also often the best representatives of the program, he added.

“We do bulletin and pulpit an­noun­cements every year before the classes start, but it is the people in the pews who most effectively re­cruit others,” he said. “I always tell people that it’s not the coordinator’s responsibility to bring people to the church, it is the church’s responsibility. And ultimately, it is God’s doing.”

Rite of Election: March 13

The Rite of Election marks the beginning of the final, intensive period of preparation of catechumens (those not baptized) for the sacraments of initiation, ordinarily celebrated during the Easter Vigil.

During the ceremony, the church, through the bishop or representative, “elects” the catechumens to receive the sacraments of baptism, First Eucharist and confirmation at the vigil.

This year, the Rite of Election will be celebrated on Sunday, March 13, at 1:30 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis and 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul. Also attending will be candidates (baptized).

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Category: The Lesson Plan