Rebecca Spellacy, who became Catholic as an adult, is the Director of Worship for the Diocese of Austin, Texas, and the former Associate Director, Liturgy, for the Office of Formation for Discipleship at the Archdiocese of Toronto. Below, she shares a reflection on the role we all play in the formation of those joining the faith this Easter.
“The Lord receives you into the Catholic Church. His loving kindness has led you here so that in the unity of the Holy Spirit you may have full communion with us in the faith that you have professed in the presence of his family” (RCIA, 405).
These words were spoken to me and countless others when we were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. While they are not the same words spoken to those who are baptized at the Easter Vigil, they summarize the heart of the journey taken by those who seek to be initiated into the Catholic Church.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the means by which adults who are unbaptized are baptized, confirmed and receive Holy Communion. This is done at the Easter Vigil. Adults who have been baptized in other Christian traditions are received into full communion. While they are not technically participating in the RCIA, they are often on a similar journey and share many experiences with those seeking baptism.
The words spoken to those who are received into the Church summarizes in many ways the journey for all adults coming into the Church and serves as a reminder to the whole community what our role is.
We, as Catholics, want everyone to know and love Christ and we understand the fullest way to do that is to be Catholic. We each have a role to play in the life of those coming to the faith. By our words and examples, even something as simple as a smile or hello at Mass, goes to show the love of Christ to a person looking for example of how the Church, and thus Christ, cares for people. This is because we are all members of God’s family. We are ambassadors for Christ. How we treat the stranger, the inquirer, the person who looks like they “don’t belong,” says a great deal to them about how Christ sees them. Ask converts and time and time again you will hear that if they stay in the Church, if they look into becoming Catholic, one of the main reasons why is because they encountered Christ in the people, in you and me.
However, the words are also a reminder that we do not do it on our own. Conversion is ultimately an act of God. Someone once told me that the goal of the community when it comes to RCIA is to not be a hindrance to the Holy Spirit. In many ways that has become my guiding thought as an RCIA catechist. I cannot be the person that brings someone to the Church, but I can be their excuse to leave. Our role as the people of God is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and welcome those baptized and received into the Church.
This Easter Vigil, hopefully your parish will welcome new Catholics into the faith. Even if your parish does not, know that many in the archdiocese (and throughout the world) will. This is a great day for the church in Toronto. However, it is just the start. We are all called to work with the Holy Spirit to continue to be a welcoming presence for these new members of our family, and for those looking to join our family next year. We are all called to be brothers and sisters in Christ.