My 30th Year in RCIA

Back in 2012 when I set up my new blog, I divided it into multiple blogs according to different categories. One is a general-purpose biographical blog called “CY’s Eye on Life“. One is about my love of technology. Another about my work with computer graphics. Another on politics. Another on entertainment. And among them this one about my faith journey. I had hoped to write something in it at least once a month telling the story of my faith journey from the beginning up to present. Unfortunately I only found the time to write one installment here about my early days in understanding what it meant to be Catholic. And as you can see here it is a couple of years later and I’m just now getting back to writing about religion and my faith. I will get back to the historical narrative later but I want to mark a special anniversary with this installment.

Tomorrow night I will be attending the RCIA classes presented by my parish St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church. These are the classes are primarily for non-Catholics who want to find out more about the Catholic faith and possibly join. They are also for inactive or as they are sometimes called “lapsed” Catholics grow considering returning to the church. Or they are for practicing Catholics who just want some update on Catholic teaching. RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. At the end of the nine-month program, if the participants wish to, they are initiated into the Catholic Church.

Those who know me and/or have read the previous installment in this blog know that I was raised Catholic. I attended the RCIA program 30 years ago this month in that middle category of “lapsed Catholic”. Without going into all the details here (wouldn’t want to spoil future blog installments) I quit going to church in my late teens/early 20s and was away for about eight or nine years. I returned after I attended an Easter vigil service on April 21, 1984. The Easter vigil is a Mass held the night before Easter wherein the participants who have been studying in the RCIA program are initiated into the Catholic Church either through baptism or if they have only been baptized through a profession of faith. They also receive the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation.

I was invited by my friend Judy Chapman because her husband Paul was being initiated into the church that night. Again without going into all of the details which I will recount later, that was one of the first steps in my journey back to the church. We was amazing to me to see Paul and other what appeared to be reasonably intelligent adult human beings standing up in front of God and everybody saying that they wanted to be part of Catholic Church. These were people who had not been tricked into it when they were a little kid (as I sometimes felt I had been). They were there to receive Sacraments but the word “sacrament” means “a sign or symbol from God”. The biggest sacrament that night was them standing up there joining the church and providing me a challenge. I had always said I had an open mind about the church but I wasn’t doing anything to fill that opening. After that experience I began attending Mass regularly and going to a Sunday morning Bible study program with my mother. A Few months later on a Thursday night in September 1984 I began attending RCIA class as I said before as a somewhat former Catholic. I also attended a variety of other adult religious education lectures and programs held at St. Gabriel’s in the following year and I also went on the Christ Renews His Parish weekend retreat and became the lay director of the team which put on the next retreat six months after that.

Having learned so much and grown so much in a year, when it came time for the 1985-1986 class year of RCIA, I volunteered to our pastor Fr. Paul Landwerlen to teach one of the classes myself. He agreed and I’ve been teaching every year since.

Tomorrow night we begin another RCIA year at St. Gabriel. It will be my 30th year to attend and my 29th as a teacher or catechist as we call them. Unfortunately we have had dwindling numbers of people attending the classes and we have been a little bit short on people who can teach. So this year we are going to partner with St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church just a couple of miles down the road and have a joint RCIA program. Because St. Gabriel’s is such a busy place on Thursday nights, we will be holding our joint program at St. Michael’s Parish Life Center where things will be quite as hectic (read loud). I’ve met the people on St. Michael’s team and I’m really looking forward to working with them for another great year.

Although I am a teacher, each year I feel like I get as much as I give. It’s amazing to me to sit in church at Mass and see people who have been through RCIA classes that I taught and they are still attending Mass regularly and are actively involved in the parish decades later. It really helps me keep my own spiritual batteries charged. Working in partnership with new team members in a new venue will make the experience even fresher and I can’t wait to see what this year brings.

Anyone who is interested, come to St. Michael’s Parish Life Center any Thursday night at 6:30 PM and check us out.