Embracing the gift of technology to teach the faith.
By Mary Catherine Bishop, Pastoral Minister
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), or known in our parish as The Emmaus Road, is the process for individuals to become Catholic and receive the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. Traditionally most parishes begin this process each Fall, gathering candidates and their sponsors together weekly to teach and discuss the Catholic Faith. They journey together as a group for several months in preparation to be received into the Church at Easter.
The closure of our parishes during the pandemic has forced us to find a new way to offer the RCIA. In May of this year I received my first inquiry from someone wanting to become Catholic. In the weeks to follow several more inquiries followed. Time to “Pivot and Change”. We had to think outside the box and come up with a plan to serve the need. I began by having weekly one on one video meetings with the candidates and connected them with the online resource FORMED.org. It was sort of an inquiry period which allowed me to help them connect with the parish while we figured out how to offer a formal RCIA process. In July I began a pilot online RCIA. I paired each of the candidates I was working with sponsors and invited them to all join together virtually using Microsoft Teams every Monday night. With a dedicated schedule of teachings using the online program called Symbolon, by The Augustine Institute, the candidates and sponsors were responsible for watching the videos on their own so that when we met we could answer questions and share our thoughts about that particular teaching. This online format allows us to start a new group whenever we have new inquiries. We are now on our third group beginning the end of October. I have asked a few of the participants from the first group to share a few words about the program:
“I felt the call of baptism during the opening months of COVID-19, and when I went searching for a church to call my own, I was directed to St. George Parish who already had an online presence and I could start my journey by watching mass. This was not enough for me so I sent an email to Father John and Father Pedro asking for guidance and they directed me to Mary Catherine , and there my journey truly began. I have learned a lot about the Church and it’s teaching, and I’ve been honored to meet other Catholics and listen to their experiences and beliefs. I also volunteer as an usher at mass on the weekends so that I can feel part of the community”
Cam Colvin, RCIA Catechumen
“Being an RCIA sponsor has been a great honour. The sessions look a bit different since we are meeting virtually using Microsoft Teams, but the discussions are extremely rich and deep and I feel that all the participants are benefitting from them. I have the privilege of sponsoring my mother Ann, and it has been has been so uplifting during these trying times. It has allowed me to stay focused on God and the bigger picture, bigger journey and the biggest reward. I am so grateful that our parish has continued to offer this program despite the pandemic. I am very excited for the day that I will stand next to my mother as she is welcomed into the Church.”
Sonja Denobrega, RCIA Sponsor
“During these uncertain times, it is encouraging that so many people are coming forward to inquire about opportunities to strengthen or develop their faith. We’ve found that interactive, on-line sessions with small groups is a wonderful way to journey with them. The small groups offers a way to be connected and allows for fellowship in addition to teaching the tenets of our Catholic faith.”
Ruth Ann Hogan, RCIA team member
Our new online RCIA runs about 20 weeks and allows us to welcome people into the faith when they feel they are ready instead of just once a year. If you know of someone who is interested in learning about the Catholic Faith, or if you are looking to update your own faith by helping as a sponsor, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19