For the first time in a number of years, St Anthony Parish in White River Junction has an active Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program and is looking forward to welcoming two catechumens and one candidate at the Easter Vigil.

The stories of how the three came to the process are each unique, said Father Charles Danielson, pastor, who explained that it’s common for some to be invited and encouraged to become members of the Church by Catholic spouses, while others are touched while being present at the sacraments of others; some simply respond to an invitation by a friend, family member or notice in the parish bulletin.

“It’s all God’s grace working in their lives,” Father Danielson said. “We are just here to facilitate the process.”

Chris Noble, RCIA coordinator, refers to it as being “companions to conversion.”

“We take them where they are, where the Holy Spirit brings them, and hope that they can say, ‘There is something here for me’,” he explained.

Noble, who is one of three members of the RCIA team, acknowledged the impact of Father Danielson, saying, “When a shepherd takes joy in his flock a wonderful thing happens. It’s great to be part of something so vibrant and forward looking.”

Thousands of people are baptized into the Catholic Church each year through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. These people are called catechumens. The RCIA also has a process of formation for those who are already baptized but considering completing their Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism and Holy Eucharist. Those people are referred to as candidates.

The RCIA process is designed to offer guidance and support for a spiritual journey toward a relationship with Jesus. As catechumens and candidates move through experiences of prayer and reflection, Scripture reading, questioning, discussion and worshipping, RCIA team members, along with the parish community, serve as companions on the journey.

For those who sense a call to the Catholic faith, the RCIA process is a time for having questions answered without a fear of commitment. “When someone begins the RCIA process, they are not committed to anything,” Father Danielson said. “If they don’t feel that the time is right or they are not satisfied with the answers they are getting,” they are free to continue their discernment on their own and always are welcomed back at a time that is right for them.

“We encourage difficult questions, and we get them,” said Noble, noting that, along with the RCIA team, Father Danielson and Deacon John Guarino are present at every weekly session. “Their presence is a great statement on the importance of the process.”

Father Danielson explained that the parish runs a notice in the bulletin inviting people to consider the RCIA process, noting that the announcement not only reaches out to those who might feel called to baptism or full communion with the Catholic Church but is important for the parish community as well.

From the perspective of the new evangelization and being a missionary Church, Noble said, “there is something special for the parish in seeing those aspects of our mission on Earth come to fruition.”

Looking to the future, Nobel stressed the meaning of process as something that continues. “The RCIA process is something ongoing. Being in full communion with the Church means you now have the skills to really live and experience the faith.”

“The RCIA is invaluable,” Father Danielson said. “It provides an accessible way for adults who feel led to the Church to have their questions answered” while building community and building up the Church.

—Originally Spring 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.