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Many called to enter the Church – Colleges join parishes at rite

Posted By March 6, 2015 | 5:24 pm | Featured Article #3

By Tanya Connor

Despite cold, stress, and distance from family, Brent Tai realizes he’s not alone. He’s learning things he wouldn’t gain from the academic education he’s here from Taiwan to pursue.
This is part of the story the Holy Cross College sophomore tells about participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Sunday he attended a special service at St. Paul Cathedral for those involved in the RCIA. Usually parishes – 38 this year – bring people preparing for sacraments of initiation to this liturgy, held the first Sunday of Lent. This time students from Assumption College and the College of Holy Cross joined them.
The liturgy is often called the Rite of Election. Its longer name is the Celebration of the Rite of Election of Catechumens and of the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates who seek to Complete their Christian Initiation.
Catechumens are people like Mr. Tai, who are preparing to be baptized and receive their first Communion and confirmation at the Easter Vigil. Candidates are to receive their first Communion and/or confirmation at that Mass, celebrated the night before Easter Sunday.
This year the diocese has 100 catechumens and 101 candidates (29 baptized non-Catholics to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church and 72 baptized Catholics completing their initiation), it was reported.
Sunday the catechumens were called by name, by parish or college. They inscribed their names in the Book of the Elect and greeted Bishop McManus, who declared them members of the elect. The candidates followed a similar process, without the signing of names. Bishop McManus said the Act of Recognition over them.
It was “really cool” seeing others going through the same process, said William McCue, a Holy Cross catechumen with Mr. Tai and Kira Niederhoffer. The sophomore said it was powerful meeting the bishop and seeing the priests and the support shown. He likened the whole group to a macrocosm and his relationship with Jesuit Father James Hayes, Holy Cross associate chaplain, as a microcosm.
It was Father Hayes he sought out after talking about religion with Mormons on mission, and learning of a friend’s confirmation, he said.
“We just lived in a very secular household,” he said of his upbringing. His mother is a Muslim from Indonesia and his father was reared Catholic in Pennsylvania, and neither they nor his sisters are religious, he said.
At Holy Cross, he saw many students to whom religion means much, and there are crosses in every classroom, he said.
“I didn’t have that meaning in my life,” he said. “I wasn’t, like, happy, and I was going through issues.”
With Father Hayes’ guidance, he reflected on faith and entered the RCIA process.
“Faith really makes me feel good and empowered,” he says now. “When I’m struggling in my life, it gives me a sense of what matters.”
Reflecting on the Rite of Election, Mr. Tai said, “The whole process has not been in vain … I’m actually about to become a Catholic.”
He said that through the RCIA he’s learning about many aspects of Catholicism that he wouldn’t learn in religion or history classes. (His family had connections with Presbyterians in his native Taiwan, where his parents live, he said. He came to the United States for high school. His brother is studying in New York.)
Mr. Tai said that to “fully accept the religion” he needs to let Jesus into his heart. He said it’s hard to trust in God instead of in himself. But it’s rewarding – when he’s stressed or lacking confidence, he feels God beside him. He also feels God’s presence and is happier when he doesn’t think just of himself.
“My life has become more complete,” he said. “I’m not alone anymore. There’s another ‘person’ with me. … I need someone to be my pillar of support, especially in this cold weather” – and with the stress of school. “But, even without the stress, God has been with me for the whole journey.”
Other people have been a part of that journey too, he said, expressing gratitude for his peers and Father Hayes.
Father Hayes said he worked with Holy Cross students in the RCIA from 1995 to 1999, and 2011 to the present. Other students help him.
Holy Cross has eight to 10 students confirmed each year, but has baptisms maybe every two or three years, he said. This year’s three members of the elect are to be baptized, confirmed and receive their first Communion at the Easter Vigil at Holy Cross, he said.
Ten other Holy Cross students are to be confirmed by Bishop McManus April 26 at Holy Cross, Father Hayes said. One is also being received into the Catholic Church, and another made his first Communion last fall, he said. Bishop McManus now does college confirmations at one site – two years ago at Holy Cross, last year at Assumption – he said. He said this year it was Anna Maria College’s turn to host, but their chapel is too small for the number of people involved.
At the April celebration an Assumption College junior, Katelyn Henry, is to be received into the Catholic Church and receive first Communion and confirmation, said Assumptionist Father Dennis Gallagher, vice president for mission. He said seven other Assumption students and a high schooler affiliated with the college are also to be confirmed then.
Shawna Van Etten, an Assumption senior, and Brenda Hernandez, a graduate student there, are to be baptized, and receive first Communion and confirmation May 3 at Assumption, Father Gallagher said. Ms. Henry joined them at the Rite of Election and  “they felt like they were part of something larger than themselves,” he said.
Paul Covino, who became Assumption’s campus ministry director last fall after 21 years of ministry at Holy Cross, said the colleges don’t always have catechumens and candidates at the Rite of Election because it often falls during students’ spring break. And students don’t always receive sacraments at the Easter Vigil because they go home for Easter.