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August 20, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 21

PROFILE

photo: Father Timothy Fitzgerald gathers with participants outside the Bishop’s Chapel of the Roslyn Conference Center with processional cross with the Risen Christ, held by Mark Hoggard, to model part of the rite of acceptance for catechumens who have completed the inquiry phase.
Father Timothy Fitzgerald gathers with participants outside the Bishop’s Chapel of the Roslyn Conference Center with processional cross with the Risen Christ, held by Mark Hoggard, to model part of the rite of acceptance for catechumens who have completed the inquiry phase.

At RCIA institute in Richmond: Rite of Acceptance for Catechumens modeled

T he recent training workshop modeling the various rites used in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was an attempt to help parishes of the Diocese of Richmond to become more familiar with how they can best welcome unbaptized persons who want to become Catholic.

The event, held Aug. 3-4 at the Roslyn Conference Center of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, focused particularly on the adaptations of the rite for children of catechetical age (7 years and older).

In all, the workshop presented by the North American Forum on the Catechumenate drew more than 80 people from close to 40 parishes. It was led by Dr. Jerry Galipeau, team leader, liturgist and musician.

photo: Members of the congregation join the priest in blessing the catechumens.
Members of the congregation join the priest in blessing the catechumens.

Many parishes which sent participants were helped by a subsidy made possible with a grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal.

Father Timothy Fitzgerald, a priest from the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, and pastor of SS. John and Paul Parish in Altoona, IA, led a model of the rite of acceptance for catechumens leaving an inquiry stage and entering the full catechumenate process. This included both an outdoor and indoor part of the rite.

All those who “posed” as catechumens are already fully baptized Catholics, including the five children who posed as children who had reached catechetical age and had not been baptized.

“Why are we pretending this?” Rachael Brown, one of the children from St. Augustine’s in Richmond, asked Mary Anne Fighera, an RCIA team member and catechetical leader from that parish.

Mrs. Fighera answered that while St. Augustine parishioners had long practiced the liturgical rites, many other parishes were not as familiar with them. The adults could learn from watching the team and participants model one of the rites, she said.

While the RCIA is mainly for adults who have not been baptized, children of catechetical age and also unbaptized begin a similar faith journey when a parent seeks to enter the Church. Other children might have Catholic parents who had been away from the Church for many years and now seek to return to the sacraments.

photo: Standing outside the chapel are, from left, front row, Sammy Rutherford, Rachael Brown, Joey Rutherford, Stephanie Younger and Olivia Cornejo, holding lectionary, director of the Institute for Pastoral Ministry with the Diocese of Orange, Calif. In the back, from left, are Chris Peiffer, Carlos Monterosso and Dani White.
Standing outside the chapel are, from left, front row, Sammy Rutherford, Rachael Brown, Joey Rutherford, Stephanie Younger and Olivia Cornejo, holding lectionary, director of the Institute for Pastoral Ministry with the Diocese of Orange, Calif. In the back,from left, are Chris Peiffer, Carlos Monterosso and Dani White.

Still other children of catechetical age may decide on their own to become a Catholic. Their circumstances are different from those in regular parish Christian formation classes.

A sponsor accompanies any candidate seeking admission as a catechumen. But the parish community is also encouraged to be part of the catechumen’s spiritual journey, Emily Filippi, diocesan director of Christian Formation, said.

Indeed, during the “model” rite, adults served as sponsors and walked with the catechumens as they made their public commitment to the community.

The conversion process of becoming a Catholic is meant to be a gradual one. Those who have not been baptized and who wish to become Catholic should first go through an inquiry period in which they are invited to “come and see.” Those who have already been baptized in another Christian tradition are known as candidates and normally have a different perspective from catechumens.

Both are called, as well as all Christians, to continue on a life-long journey of conversion in their work with God.

Conversion for children should be seen as a coming of growth and awareness and a turning toward Christ, catechetical leaders assert.

photo: Chris Peiffer, of St.Therese Parish in Chesapeake, holding mike, models the role of a catechumen in group discussion
going through the inquiry phase.
Chris Peiffer, of St.Therese Parish in Chesapeake, holding mike, models the role of a catechumen in group discussion going through the inquiry phase.

One of the adults who was modeling the role of a catechumen was asked why she wanted to be a member of Christ’s Church.

She responded that she had attended a funeral of a friend and had seen something in the funeral rite which made her “want to grow closer to Jesus.”

In the initial part of the Rite of Acceptance, the priest asks each individual “What do you ask of God’s Church?”

“Faith” is the candidate’s response.

“What does faith offer you?,” the priest then asks.

“Eternal life” is the response of the catechumen.

Some of the institute participants said they had new insights after sharing in dialogue and listening to the reasons catechumens give for wanting to become Catholic.

“I think what struck me was that applying scripture to daily life is so important and showing them God’s Word is pertinent to everything we do in life,” said Maria Thorsen, a catechist at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

photo:  Deacon Chris Morash, director of the Office of Worship, provided accompaniment on the piano during the service in the chapel.
Deacon Chris Morash, director of the Office of Worship, provided accompaniment on the piano during the service in the chapel.

Another woman said that after listening to others at the workshop, she was going to make a renewed commitment to spend more time with her family.

“My children are now adults, but they still need me and I need them,” she said.

Rachael Brown, one of the children, said she is now inspired to find ways to be a “sign” of Christ by helping those who are less fortunate. One way of doing this, she said, is to give some of her lunch money to a classmate who does not have money and is hungry.

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