Father Steven Marchand, parochial vicar of the Rutland/Wallingford Catholic Community, is conducting a robust Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following state safety protocols and adapting to people’s changing work schedules, he meets with a handful of participants regularly on Monday evenings in a large conference room; several others make individual appointments with him during the week to accommodate their work schedules. “The 9-5 model of the typical work-day seems to be receding away for more and more people,” he said. “That, combined with the situation we are in with the pandemic,” keeps the number of people gathered together at any one time to a minimum.

There are five people in the program for enrichment, four catechumens and two candidates for confirmation.

“This is a very good number for Vermont. Challenging times often invite people to ponder the higher things as we see firsthand our own — and the world’s — fallenness, said Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of evangelization, catechesis, divine worship, marriage and family and respect life. “Yet, God does not abandon us, but in Jesus Christ offers us a peace, purpose and ultimately salvation through the Cross and in His Church.”

For Father Marchand, it is a great privilege to help bring adults into the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church. “The largest religious group in the United States today is non-practicing or ‘fallen-away’ Catholics, and it is always cause for rejoicing when a baptized Catholic also wants to make their way home and receive confirmation or reconciliation with the Church,” he said. “It is my hope in teaching RCIA that those who come will in turn encourage others in their family or of their acquaintance to do the same.”

He is reminded during November when members of the Church pray for the souls of the faithful departed and meditate upon their own death and judgment that they are called to be always prepared to make an accounting to our Lord. “It is my hope and prayer that many more will enter the Church to receive the ‘fullness of Life’ which Christ came to bring and left to His Church,” he said.

Father Marchand structures the year of study around three main topics. The first is “What Catholics Believe” in which they explore the basic Catholic doctrines as presented in the Creed such as the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church and the Four Last Things. Secondly, they explore “How Catholics Worship,” in which there is a thorough study of the seven sacraments. Finally, to coincide with Lent, they study “How Catholics Live,” in which they study the Christian moral life through the lenses of the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the spiritual life.

“I also like to add in a couple sessions on Church history to give a sense of perspective on the beautiful and venerable antiquity of our faith,” he added.

Barring pandemic restrictions, most who are studying to receive sacraments will do so at the Easter Vigil.

“Perhaps the Covid situation has people thinking more of final and spiritual things. We can never underestimate how much the prayers of the community for the conversion of sinners are heard by Our Lord and answered in this way,” Father Marchand said.

“I am grateful for the Church in the Rutland-Wallingford Catholic community for being in a position to warmly receive these men and women, accompany them on their way to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church and joyfully receive them into their parish,” Deacon Lawson said.

For more information on the Rutland/Wallingford Catholic Community, go to rwcatholic.org.

Vermont Catholic file/Cori Fugere Urban