July 19, 2019

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Bev Hansberry

RCIA offers evangelization, chance to move all toward Jesus

Many of you have probably heard the phrase, “We often don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.” This phrase has echoed in my head—and in my heart—these past few months as I’ve prepared to retire after 23 years in ministry. Maybe that’s why this year at the Easter Vigil I felt as if my heart would burst! I sat in the pew and tried to take in everything in a way that I had never done before.

One of my most endearing opportunities at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis has always been the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Each year, I find myself full of anticipation and excitement as we enter into the holy vigil.

This year was different, more magnified. It was the last time I would be responsible for helping form candidates and catechumens. Many things were going through my head about the experience.

I finally quieted myself and simply gazed tenderly at each person as they celebrated baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Those who were at one time strangers had become loving treasures! God’s spirit had changed me by being part of their lives. That evening, I realized that RCIA is a process that can touch the souls of everyone who comes into contact with it. It’s such a powerful example of evangelization on many levels.

Each year, I ask participants why they are interested in attending RCIA. Many of them say it’s because they know someone who is Catholic, often a spouse. Recently, someone said it was because they were invited. Just imagine what could happen if each one of us invited one person to RCIA each year! Evangelization … without a doubt!

The weekly sessions of RCIA become not just a source of knowledge, but a way of formation—evangelization in a concrete way. It’s beautiful to see those in the process open themselves to the Spirit and become transformed. In the end, however, we as Catholics also are the ones evangelized. Many sponsors have told me how the process has given them a deeper understanding of their faith and love of Christ. Also, as candidates and catechumens stand at Mass and publicly commit to Christ through the rites, scrutinies and at the Vigil, they become witnesses to the whole parish. Their excitement is contagious. Seeing the spark of light within, we the onlookers can’t help but want what they have. Evangelization—right?

Moved by their witness, parishioners frequently affirm the candidates and catechumens. Evangelization again! As they are affirmed, they often feel a part of something much bigger than themselves.

This year, we had a catechumen who was getting married and didn’t know if they would stay at our parish. They stayed. A candidate said he felt as if he finally belonged. He’ll stay. Another candidate said she is happy to know people now at Mass. She will stay and will seek out to meet many other parishioners.

Now as my role is changing, I’m looking forward to continuing my involvement in the process as a parishioner. I’m excited to know that I can always be a part of RCIA, and knowing that actually takes away some of my sadness of letting go.

RCIA is truly a life-giving opportunity. It is a circle of evangelization with the potential to move all of God’s people toward Jesus.

(Bev Hansberry is a former parish catechetical leader and member of the Archdiocesan RCIA Committee who now serves part time in spiritual direction ministry.)

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