The week before Lent began, our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) community of forty-one candidates and catechumens, their sponsors, and our 30-person RCIA team gathered together in our usual space in the Fr. Jack Wall Mission Center for our regularly scheduled RCIA Formation Night. Fr. Tom Hurley was with us to present his thoughts on the topic of Lent. Fr. Tom, as always, engaged and enlightened us as he spoke about the development of this season, its deepest meanings for us today, and the practices we take up in order to most fully enter into Lent. Our candidates and catechumens asked wonderful questions that evening, and they entered into great conversations about what Lent might mean to them, particularly this year.
A week-and a-half later, I headed out of the office around 6 p.m., having planned to use the rest of the evening to “work from home” by reading the forty-one Letters of Intent written by our candidates and catechumens. These letters were written in preparation for coming before the community of Old St. Patrick’s and the Church of Chicago (represented by our bishop) on March 20 to ask to be “elected” to the Sacraments of Initiation at Eastertime. Within a few moments of reading these letters though, I found myself the recipient of a beautiful and grace-filled Lenten gift. That evening, I spent two hours captivated by our candidates’ and catechumens’ words — all at once simple and profound, heart-wrenching and hope-filled, light-hearted and deeply sincere. My own prayer of “God, what is your desire for me this Lent?” was answered by the messages of gratitude, hope, and hunger for full participation in the life of this Church community shared by these forty-one men and women.
My responsibility and the responsibility of our RCIA team (including Fr. Tom Hurley, Fr. Paul O’Connor, Terry Nelson-Johnson and others) was to help guide, teach, and walk with these individuals on their journey of discernment and formation during these past six-and a-half months. We were charged with handing over as much of the wisdom, joy, and hope of our faith and our tradition as possible and welcoming these “learners” — who last weekend were officially “elected” to the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter — to engage and enter into this experience of Catholic Christianity.
Through them, though, God has chosen to teach me and remind all of us who we are and to whom we belong. Please enjoy some of these Lenten gifts (see below): from our RCIA candidates and elect to us, and let’s keep them in our prayers on these final weeks of retreat and preparation before their Easter Sacraments.
Keara Coughlin is Director of Young Adult Ministry at Old St. Patrick’s Church.
I KNEW in my heart that this wasn’t just a “journey” anymore, but that I had finally found my path home. – Kayla
I think the most important affirmation I have had on this journey of faith has just been an overwhelming sense of calm. Almost as if as I am learning about Jesus, he is learning about me. – Leah
What finally pushed me across the threshold was not any theological argument, but a longing for the grace found in the Eucharist. I ache for grace … it’s a yearning to consume Jesus, so that Jesus will consume me. – Stuart
I believe that God can be found in all of the religions I have encountered. However, he speaks to me most urgently, most passionately, and most personally in the language of Catholicism. – Jessica
What I’m asking for — to open myself up to this tradition and this relationship with God — it humbles me. I am entirely overcome when considering God, the human condition, and my place in all of this. – Michael
… My faith journey is just beginning and actually really doesn’t have a finish line. – Sarah