Drop-in sessions inspire new Catholics - Catholic Courier

Drop-in sessions inspire new Catholics

In just a few months Brandi Baida will join the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil at Our Lady of the Snow Parish in northern Cayuga County. Her initiation will mark the culmination of Baida’s lengthy search for a church community she could call home.

"I felt like this is where I need to be. I felt welcomed. Our Lady of the Snow was just what I needed, when I needed it," Baida said about her newfound parish.

Baida’s first interaction with Our Lady of the Snow was decidedly informal. She’d been driving around the area seeking a place where she could donate a bag of clothes her twin toddler sons had outgrown, but all of the churches she’d visited had been closed. She was relieved when her knock on the door at Our Lady of the Snow’s parish office was answered by Aaron Wilson, the parish’s religious-education administrator. Wilson struck up an easy conversation with Baida, who soon felt comfortable enough to ask him a few of the questions she had about Catholicism.

Wilson was more than happy to answer Baida’s questions and encouraged her to consider attending the Catholic Inquiry Sessions he planned to hold at the parish during the month of October.

"I just started going to the inquiry sessions and now I’m going through the classes, and it just sort of snowballed from there. I was not meant to give that stuff to any other church, and I was led to be here," remarked Baida, who is one of two people who were inspired to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and join the Catholic Church after attending Our Lady of the Snow’s Catholic Inquiry Sessions.

The sessions were meant to be appealing to any person who had questions about any aspect of the Catholic faith, regardless of that person’s own background, Wilson explained.

"I approached the program through the lens of a nonreligious person, a non-Catholic or even a nonpracticing Catholic, and (thought about) what somebody approaching the church in that fashion would be interested in," he said.

Wilson ran a notice in Our Lady of the Snow’s bulletin announcing that he would be available to answer questions in a conference room in the parish hall each Tuesday evening in October. He invited parishioners to drop in if they had questions, or to invite anyone they knew who was curious about or interested in the Catholic faith but didn’t know how to find answers or take the first step toward joining. Several parishioners stopped by to ask questions, and several other parishioners just asked Wilson their questions when they saw him around the parish. A handful of nonparishioners came to the drop-in sessions as well, including Baida, who attended three of them.

"I was very interested in it because I had questions about the Catholic faith. I felt like this was the perfect place to go to get my questions answered," said Baida, whose questions covered everything from the basic tenets of the faith to the difference between mortal and venial sins. "They could answer my questions, and I didn’t feel like a terrible person for asking them."

The inquiry sessions ended Oct. 28, but they were soon followed by weekly RCIA classes, which also are open to anyone interested, Wilson said. Two people are officially going through the process with the intention of joining the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil, but from time to time others drop in if they’re interested in the topic of that week’s class, which is publicized in the bulletin ahead of time.

"You can come here and if you like what you hear, you can come in and join for the sacraments, too, and if not, hey, it’s free learning. The door is always open. Anyone is welcome to sit in and learn," Wilson said.

Wilson begins each session by asking participants if they have any questions. This is very helpful because learning about the Catholic faith can be sort of like learning a second language, Baida said. Words that Catholics take for granted — even words such as ‘sacrament’ — can be mystifying for people just getting acquainted with Catholicism, she said.

"I did get clarity on those words that I had never heard before. I feel like by the end of it I will have a really firm grasp on everything. I want to know everything I need to know to be able to function in the Catholic Church and get closer to God," she said.


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