By Deacon Jeff Arner, Director of Faith Formation
St. Elizabeth Seton has been very blessed with a growing number of people who are seeking to be fully initiated into the Roman Catholic Faith through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist. Currently, we have nine such individuals who have just completed the period of inquiring and who have received the Rite of Acceptance and Welcome on Sunday, November 28 at the 11 am mass. You might think that nine is not that many; however, with the challenges that our world is experiencing with the Coronavirus and our given demographic, that is a large number. We have candidates and catechumens ages 26 to 99, and what a wonderful group we have. It has been a group that has truly enjoyed spending time together learning from each other’s experiences and journey. The joy and enthusiasm expressed in the group are infectious.
The reasons for wanting to fully join the church are altogether different and yet point to the one ultimate reason, to spend eternity with God. We have individuals who have military backgrounds who are searching for personal healing for themselves and their families, meaning for their lives, and to know that they are loved and accepted by God. Our 99-year-old had already been Baptized and received Holy Eucharist in the Catholic faith but said that she “was done practicing being a Catholic and wants to be a full member of the Church”. Others in the group share some of the same reasons, especially, just wanting to feel the Love of God and to share that with others. They are realizing that the Church has a richness through the Mass and Sacraments and they want to get as much as they can.
As you can see, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a method that the Church uses to bring our brothers and sisters in Christ into full membership of the Roman Catholic Church. We begin this process through the Inquiry period, which in our parish begins in August and goes through November, when those who want to continue the journey celebrate the Rite of Acceptance and Welcome. This rite is celebrated within the mass where the candidates (those already Baptized Christian) and those Catechumens (those not Baptized) state their intention publicly and get the support of the Church through prayers and companionship of the community. Then they enter the period of Catechumenate. This process is more in-depth teaching of the faith focusing on what we believe and profess in our Creed and participate in through the sacraments.
The next rite is the Rite of Election that will be celebrated on the 1st Sunday of Lent. This begins the purification and enlightenment stage. The rite is focused on those who have not been Baptized. They will sign their names into the Book of the Elect. From the day of their election and admission, the catechumens are called “the elect.”
On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, the elect will participate in special prayers at mass that are called Scrutinies. These Scrutinies are prayers for strength as they get closer to the Easter Sacraments. The Church knows as we choose to get closer to Christ that Satan works very hard to discourage us from continuing. This is the Church’s way of being that conduit of grace and strength to help them continue. The stage will finally climax at the Easter Vigil, the Night of all nights, where the Elect along with the Candidates will become fully Catholic, receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist.
Our new Catholics are called Neophytes within the first year of their initiation. They enter a new period of continued formation called Mystagogia up until Pentecost Sunday. During this time, they will be introduced more to the various ministries and opportunities that we all are privileged to have as members of the Roman Catholic Faith. They are fully emerged in this family of faith and will continue to serve our community.
If you are interested in becoming Catholic or just need to receive the rest of your Initiation Sacraments, please contact Deacon Jeff Arner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-866-5221.