Ben Rosenkrans considered converting to Catholicism almost six years ago when he married Janelle, a Catholic, but eventually decided against it.
When he learned he was going to be a father, however, Rosenkrans decided to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at his wife’s parish, All Saints in Corning. Not only did he want to find faith and become a better person, but Rosenkrans also realized he wanted to learn more so he could help Janelle raise their daughter — who was born in November — as a Catholic.
“Before I went through this, I didn’t feel like I could teach her about religion,” Rosenkrans said. “This is an opportunity to learn and be able to teach her that someday.”
Rosenkrans is one of more than 480 people in the Diocese of Rochester who will be welcomed into full membership in the Catholic Church this weekend during Easter Vigil Masses at 85 different parishes, said Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of sacramental catechesis. More than 165 of those people are catechumens, who have never been baptized and have been preparing to receive the sacraments of baptism, first Communion and confirmation this weekend.
The rest are candidates, who already have been baptized in recognized Christian rites. They have been preparing to receive holy Communion, confirmation or both this weekend, Dundas said.
More than 130 of the catechumens and candidates are children, who have been participating in the RCIA as adapted for children, she added.
Rosenkrans’ story is fairly typical, and the arrival of children often are among the deciding factors for adults who decide to go through RCIA, said Sharon Laux, RCIA and liturgy coordinator at Our Lady of the Snow Parish in Cayuga County. Non-Catholics who marry and have children with Catholics often go through the process so they’ll be able to receive the sacraments with their children, she said.
Children of divorced or separated parents sometimes go through RCIA as adapted for children because their parents didn’t enroll them in faith-formation or sacramental-preparation classes when they were younger, noted Mary Haas, faith-formation coordinator at Holy Trinity Parish in Webster. When these parents get into stable relationships or remarry and begin having more children, they often want to have the younger children baptized. Sometimes they’ll have the older and younger children baptized at the same time, Haas said.
Unfortunately, faith formation and sacramental preparation are sometimes neglected or overlooked as parents grow increasingly busy and as careers require them to move away from their home parishes, she added.
“I think a lot of times that happens as families are very mobile now, and I think kids’ (faith formation) falls through the cracks. People just don’t think about it, I guess,” Haas said.
Fifteen-year-old Mike Shaughnessy said he’d always wanted to become a full member of the Catholic Church, but he didn’t have the opportunity to do so until this year because he had moved with his family when he was younger.
“I just wanted to learn more about the religion. It was just something I’ve always kind of wanted to do, but never had the chance to do when I was little,” said Mike, who will be welcomed into the church at Holy Trinity Church this weekend.
Crystal Batson, 18, was baptized as an infant but didn’t attend church regularly until she began the RCIA process last fall. She started thinking about receiving the rest of the sacraments when most of her friends were confirmed several years ago, but she didn’t think she could devote her full attention to the process during her high-school years. After Laux invited Batson to attend Our Lady of the Snow’s baccalaureate ceremonies for graduating seniors, she finally began considering the process in earnest.
“She missed not receiving the Eucharist. She just felt like she was missing something, and she didn’t know what it was until the baccalaureate,” Laux said.
Batson’s eagerness to be a full member of the church was contagious and helped even longtime parishioners renew and become excited about their own faith, Laux added. The younger candidates and catechumens at Holy Trinity have the same effect on parishioners, said Jodi Rowland, youth minister.
“It’s great to see how eager they are to receive the sacraments … and the more we meet the more excited they get,” she said.
Candidates’ and catechumens’ enthusiasm about their newfound faith often spreads through other parishioners the way heat radiates from a flame, Dundas said. Each Catholic is then called to fan the flames of his or her own faith and find that place of eagerness and excitement, she said.
“Each Christian Catholic has that responsibility to not only nurture their own faith, but also the faith of the people around them,” she added.