Woman leaves church shopping behind, prepares to become Catholic

| March 1, 2016 | 2 Comments
Rafiann Olchefske, a catechumen at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, likes the welcoming atmsophere there and looks forward to joining the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass at the Basilica March 26. “My heart is with the Basilica,” she said. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Rafiann Olchefske, a catechumen at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, likes the welcoming atmsophere there and looks forward to joining the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass at the Basilica March 26. “My heart is with the Basilica,” she said. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Woman leaves church shopping behind, prepares to become Catholic

Rafiann Olchefske was “church shopping,” as she put it, when something happened that compelled her to find out more about the Catholic faith.

After many years of not attending religious services, she was at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis about a year ago.

“I remember it was at the point in the Mass when we pray for others [the prayers of the faithful],” Olchefske said.

“We asked God to bless our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

She first thought that was strange, to pray for a group that included people who were persecuting Christians.

But she said she realized, “It’s so pure, that kind of love, that Catholics are willing to pray for people different than themselves.”

It’s an attitude very different from how she was raised, she said. And it has led her to prepare to be baptized and receive the Catholic Church’s other sacraments of initiation on Easter vigil at the Basilica March 26.

Rafiann Olchefske, right, greets Bishop Andrew Cozzens during the Rite of Election Feb. 14 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Rafiann Olchefske, right, greets Bishop Andrew Cozzens during the Rite of Election Feb. 14 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Learning from others

Olchefske, 30, grew up in the Philippines. Although her parents had been Catholic, they became Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she was raised in what she recalls as the closed, restrictive environment of that tradition.

“Ever since I was 11 or 12, I started asking questions, and I didn’t get the answers I was looking for,” she said.

“After I moved out of my parents’ home I stopped going” [to Jehovah’s Witness activities].

Living in the United States since 2011, Olchefske said memories of her grandmother, a woman whose Catholic faith was evident in her daily actions, played a role in her own spiritual search.

“My grandmother always found the good in other people,” she said. “When she died, the whole city was there for her funeral. Her relationship with God was real. When I started looking for a faith, that stuck with me.”

Olchefske, who is married and works for a financial services firm in Minneapolis, said she tried several churches.

“I told myself I’m just going to look, I’m not going to join. I’m just church shopping,” she said.

At Mass at the Basilica one day, she heard an announcement that anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic faith was invited to go downstairs after Mass to check it out, she recalled.

“I told myself I was going to go and learn and be very objective about it,” Olchefske said.

She started attending the inquiry sessions that are part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Church’s formation rite for people who wish to become Christians in the Catholic Church.

“I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do now,” Olchefske said of the two-hour Tuesday night sessions. “I really find myself enjoying it.”

Because Olchefske is preparing for baptism, she is considered a catechumen. Others preparing to join the Church who have been baptized are candidates. During dual Rite of Election ceremonies Feb. 14 at the Basilica and the Cathedral of St. Paul, 634 catechumens and candidates came forward in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Along with learning about the Church, Olchefske said RCIA participants learn from each other.

“Their faith journeys are beautiful,” she said.

A spiritual home

Paula Kaempffer, director of learning at the Basilica, said she has found Olchefske to be open to talking about her spirituality.

“Rafiann talks about knowing that God has been calling her for a long time, and she can’t say ‘no’ anymore, she can’t refuse,” Kaempffer said.

Olchefske said the welcoming feeling she got from the diverse mix of people who attend Mass at the Basilica tugged at her.

“The Catholic Church always attracted me because it seemed so inclusive,” she said. “It includes everyone who wants to be a part of it.”

Although she tried other churches, she said, “My heart is with the Basilica. And the church itself is really beautiful.”

Constance White and Kathy Clarkson are Olchefske’s sponsors, and after Easter she’ll join Clarkson in a program in which a group of Basilica parishioners will visit with people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to learn more about immigration.

Olchefske said she admires the fervor for social justice that many Catholics have.

“You see the passion. They [Catholics] really do care about other people,” she said. “That’s one of the beautiful things about the Catholic faith.”

Bonus benefit

And there’s one more thing of beauty that Olchefske said has come from her faith journey.

Her husband, Doug, was raised Catholic but has never actively practiced the faith, she said.

“When I started the RCIA process, he supported me, but he said he wasn’t going to get involved,” she said.

He started going to the sessions as well, however, and although he hasn’t made any commitments, she said they’re praying together and enjoying discussing the topics that are part of RCIA formation.

“He said he’s learning a lot of things he didn’t know,” Olchefske said, and she appreciates that he accompanies her.

Cheerfully she said, “It’s a good bonus.”

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  • YES! Welcome Rafiann, we can’t wait to have you as a part of our parish!

  • Anonymous

    Your an an apostate!