December 4, 2021 Essay: A Special Welcome and a Call to Joy
The readings for the Second Sunday of Advent are filled with joy and drama. Jerusalem, a paradigm for us, is told to “take off the robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” St. Paul then assures the early Christian community of Philippi that “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you.” In the Gospel we see the Baptizer burst on the scene and promise that “all flesh will see the salvation of God.” These are such joyful and hope-filled readings as we live through the reality and challenges of our fragmented world.
This Sunday at the 11:00 Solemn Mass the Parish community, led by our Pastor Father Yesalonia, will celebrate the Rite of Welcome for those adults wanting to become Catholic or wanting to complete their Catholic initiation. Advent is such a fitting time to celebrate and affirm their desire!
Seventeen adults are participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. RCIA, the ordinary way the Church reaches out to adults who inquire into the Catholic faith, is a faith formation and sacramental preparation process. For these adults, Advent is an important step in their journey. It is the time when these women and men (called “catechumens” if they have not been baptized, and “candidates” if they have already been baptized) are in the initial stages of their preparation process to become Catholics at Easter and to receive the Easter Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.
As we join the universal Church in supporting these people, we at St. Ignatius are continuing the sacred tradition that began long ago in the early Church. The living faith community who would later receive these new members was called to pray and prepare along with them. Likewise, today here at St. Ignatius, the Parish community prays with and for the catechumens and candidates at ceremonies or “rites” at the start of Advent and Lent that give visible signs to their progress on their journey.
For these adults, who hail from ten states and five countries with an age range of fifty years, the RCIA process is a very personal one. Though their conversion journey began formally when the RCIA inquirers and Parish RCIA Team first began meeting, their desire to become closer to Christ started much earlier in their own hearts. God called them by name. God has loved them abundantly and chose them to follow.
Today at the Rite of Welcome these individuals publicly express their intent to respond to God’s call and ask for the support of God’s Church, the people of God represented by this Parish. You will notice during this Rite that there are many people from our Parish community who are serving as sponsors. Sponsors are Roman Catholic adults who are enthusiastic about their faith and will introduce these catechumens and candidates to the larger Parish and its ministries. How graced we are to have so many parishioners generously serving in this significant ministry.
The women and men who aspire to a new way of life in Christ have received the gift of God’s love. They are joyfully responding to God’s call to conversion and are trying to live their lives as Christ’s disciples. Let us pray that they and we as a Parish use these days to become even more aware of God’s love and action in our lives and the world during this Advent Season.
Mary Ann Fitzgibbon, RCIA Team Member and Parishioner