After several months of attending weekly classes at their parishes, Crystal Batson, Mike Shaughnessy and Ben Rosenkrans are looking forward to being fully received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil on April 7. But just as the Easter season will not end on April 9, their journey through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults will continue even after their initiation at the vigil.
“You don’t want the Easter Vigil to be the end,” said Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of sacramental catechesis. “You’re not done. You have begun on a new way. Where is God taking you, leading you?”
The final stage of the RCIA process, called mystagogy, takes place between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. During this time RCIA participants continue to meet, ask questions and learn about the mysteries of the Catholic faith, Dundas said. Each of the first readings at weekend liturgies during this period is from the Acts of the Apostles, which is fitting, Dundas said, because those going through RCIA are learning how to be good disciples of Jesus.
Sharon Laux, RCIA and liturgy coordinator at Our Lady of the Snow Parish in Cayuga County, always tells people going through RCIA that the mystagogy is an important part of the process, and she expects them to participate in it.
During meetings of the newly initiated, representatives from various parish ministries give presentations on their ministries and why they became involved in them, she added. Laux said she hopes that the speakers’ passion for their work will move the newly initiated to join some of the parish’s ministries.
“We ask that they do at least a year of service to give back to the church and get them involved,” Laux said.
The first meeting after the Easter Vigil is important because it gives the newly initiated a chance to share the feelings they experienced during the vigil and how the night changed them, Dundas said.
“You can’t just go on with your life as if nothing has changed. There has been a huge change,” she said.
Yet that change usually has begun to take place in the hearts and minds of catechumens and candidates months before the Easter Vigil, she added. In fact, during the Rite of Election, the catechumens and candidates are asked if they have not only listened to God’s word through the Scriptures, but also begun to live their lives according to that word. They are asked to acknowledge that they have changed since they began the process, she said.
Eighteen-year-old Batson, who has been going through Our Lady of the Snow’s RCIA program, said the process has changed the way she interacts with people.
“I’ve been more understanding, and I’m trying to help people. I’ve been a lot nicer to people,” she said.
While she still doesn’t relish being the center of a large group’s attention, she said she’s much less introverted than she was a few months ago. She’s also become more open to new ideas and to participating in church, and she’s even considering joining the choir.
The RCIA process also has changed the life of 15-year-old Mike Shaughnessy, who’s been going through the RCIA program at Webster’s Holy Trinity Parish. Before he began the process, he said he would sometimes keep walking if he saw another student being beaten up or harassed in the halls at school. When faced with the same situations these days, he said he usually tries to intervene.
“I try to help kids out. I try to take the Catholic principles and put them in my everyday life,” Mike said.
Rosenkrans, of All Saints Parish in Corning, said the RCIA process has given him a new way to look at life and a newfound appreciation for the church. He now attends church each week and prays with his wife, Janelle.
“We pray together now. I never had that,” he said. “I look forward to going to church. I never had that.”
Rosenkrans said he is grateful for the parish’s RCIA team as well as last year’s candidates and catechumens, who explained to this year’s candidates and catechumens how the RCIA process had changed their lives.
“I was really inspired by their stories, because a lot of them were similar to what I was going through,” said Rosenkrans, who hopes the RCIA team will invite him back next year to share his story.
“I feel like I just want to give back to the community, he said. “Hopefully I can inspire someone else like I was inspired this time.”