More than 450 people throughout diocese prepare for sacraments - Catholic Courier

More than 450 people throughout diocese prepare for sacraments

Cynthia Contreras said her grandmother’s example motivated her to become more religious. Her grandmother was a Christian, for whom faith had always been a big part of her life.

“When she passed away, I made a commitment to figure out what this was that was important to her,” said Contreras, a candidate for reception into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. She said she chose the Catholic Church because her mother had been Catholic and took her to Mass occasionally when she was growing up.

During the past year, Contreras and hundreds of others throughout the diocese have taken part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process for people who wish to join the church. Contreras, who attends All Saints Parish in Corning, will receive the sacraments of Eucharist and confirmation at the Easter Vigil.

This year, 78 parishes throughout the diocese have 254 candidates (people who were baptized in Catholic or recognized Protestant rites but who never received first Eucharist and/or confirmation) and 197 catechumens (people have never been baptized), according to Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis. Those totals include 60 catechumens and 48 candidates who are children, she said.

Contreras is a California native who followed her husband to Corning after graduating from Seattle University in 2006, where she took an interest in Catholic theology. She said RCIA has given her a greater understanding of the important aspects of the Catholic Church.

In the past she had a superficial understanding of concepts such as the Trinity, the Eucharist and Christ’s passion, but she said her understanding has deepened through the past year.

“You hear about the passion, and think oh, yeah, Christ died for us, but now I understand it on a fundamental level,” she said.

Catechumen Andrew MacGowan of Brighton said he could not ask for more from his experience in the RCIA process. He noted that he has gained a deep understanding of the Catholic Church, and that he has appreciated the depth of theological understanding sponsors and participants brought to the catechumenate program.

“Unless you have been through it, you can’t fully appreciate it,” he remarked.

MacGowan noted that he had a profound experience as a young man that led him to the Catholic Church, but he had missed sacraments, including baptism, and was not in full communion with the church. Now a longtime worshipper at St. Mary Parish in Rochester, he said his wife, Lorraine, and his young children, 12-year-old Gabe and 10-year-old Theo, motivated him to enter the catechumenate.

MacGowan encouraged all who have lost touch with the church to give it another try.

“Those who have fallen away from the church have no idea of the revolution in church since Vatican II,” MacGowan said. “Those who have been away from the church really owe it to themselves to take a look.”

Catechumen Tina Packer of Newark also entered the RCIA process due to a spouse’s influence.

“My husband is Catholic, and I just got interested in it, and wanted to learn more about the Catholic religion,” Packer said. “Here I am. I love it.”

During the Easter Vigil at the parish she attends, St. Michael in Newark, Packer will receive the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist and confirmation. At the same time, her 16-month-old daughter Caitlyn also will be baptized.

As she has participated in the catechumenate, Packer said she has been struck with how much she has learned.

“There’s just so much to learn about the Lord, and the people are absolutely amazing — the ones who taught me and the church itself,” she said. “It’s been a really great process, and I’m really happy with my decision and with the Catholic Church.”

Packer, MacGowan and Contreras’ enthusiasm is one of the gifts that catechumens and candidates bring to the Catholic Church, Dundas said.

“They bring a witness to their faith and an enthusiasm about finding a community of faith,” she said.

Dundas said the enthusiasm of candidates and catechumens makes her look again at what she believes and whether she treasures her beliefs as much as she ought to. She said candidates, catechumens and the wider church — through the RCIA process or through the diocesan Spirit Alive! spiritual renewal — should look at the gifts they have and recognize them as something special.

“(Candidates and catechumens) become closer to the mission that we’ve all been sent on as baptized Christians to take what we know to those around us,” Dundas said.

The faith-formation teams working with candidates and catechumens also are extremely engaged by the catechetical journey, Dundas said, noting however that one goal of those in faith formation is to get all other parishioners to feel that engagement.

“There’s always a struggle to include the wider assembly in that enthusiasm,” Dundas remarked.

Among the RCIA-related events open to the wider church were the annual Rites of Election, which took place at Sacred Heart Cathedral Feb. 10, St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua Feb. 13 and Church of St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads Feb. 17. During these ceremonies, catechumens signed their names in the Book of Elect and then were greeted by Bishop Matthew H. Clark. Candidates also were identified and greeted by the bishop.

“This is a wonderful day for our church, for all parishioners here today presenting for election those who have heard God’s call and who have responded,” Bishop Clark said, speaking at one of the Rites services at Sacred Heart Cathedral Feb. 10.

We also are being called to do the Lord’s will, and we all share in Christ’s suffering, he noted.

“We need to be careful that we do not look at this as something past, but rather that we see it as our call as well,” Bishop Clark said.

Candidate Teresa Seaman of Trumansburg credits her then-10-year-old daughter, Mikaela, with drawing her toward the church. Mikaela, now 11, said she wanted to go to church, so they began attending St. James the Apostle in Trumansburg, the church Seaman’s in-laws attended. Soon, mother and daughter were both preparing to receive their sacraments.

Seaman, who was raised Lutheran, said she learned a lot about the Catholic Church through the RCIA program.

“I was surprised how similar the religions were, and for some reason, I thought Catholics were a lot stricter,” Seaman said.

She said she also has been fascinated by the history of the church.

“It’s fascinating how long the church has survived, considering what it’s been up against,” Seaman said.

This is an update to the story “Hundreds prepare for sacraments at the Easter Vigil,” which was posted Feb. 28, 2008.

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