By Dom Fimiano
Traditionally, each September, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program begins at St. Thomas Church in Long Beach. This is an educational program open to adults interested in learning about Catholicism or becoming Catholic in a relaxed pressure-free spiritual environment. Participants have opportunities to grow spiritually while learning more about their faith through witnessing and experiencing Christian life.
RCIA is Christian educational opportunity; it is not a program seeking to recruit or convert anyone. The opportunity is for adults desiring to learn more scripture-based information concerning what the Catholic Church teaches and practices. RCIA is for Christians and Catholics seeking more from their faith or feeling drawn by the Holy Spirit. The Rite of Christian Initiation is also the process for adults desiring to become catholic and for catholic members to receive the sacraments.
Diocese of Biloxi’s Bishop Kihneman recently stated an RCIA program should be less curriculum-driven and rather tailored to the individual seekers in ways that help form a long-lasting personal relationship with Christ and His Church. St. Thomas Parish is updating the RCIA program beginning this year to fulfill these goals. St. Thomas’s Deacon, Buddy Vancourt, said the new format will likely provide flexibility for RCIA participants to join at any point. Leaders say the sole purpose of the RCIA program is to bring members closer to God.
Nancy Howard and Sarah Murphy are participants who shared how impressed they are with the RCIA program. They mentioned how they never felt pressure to attend the classes or to join the church, they felt the classes were welcoming, and they always looked forward to attending. Howard said the leaders’ excellent knowledge of scripture helped create a spiritual journey that nourished her desire to participate. Bible verses were referenced to explain and clarify information. Murphy said that the RCIA content is so rich, she thinks everyone should participate, going on to describe her RCIA experience as the most wonderful spiritual awakening and philosophical understanding of any religious education she’s had.
St. Thomas RCIA program leaders are Sue Hoffman, Dave Gauthier and Steven Mink. Gauthier said that updates are being made to the RCIA program to have sponsors work more closely with participants, so the sponsors will be more involved in assisting with spiritual development. The RCIA participants will have fewer classroom-related activities and will be given the opportunity to experience spiritual growth by participating in parish-led activities offered at flexible times. Organizers hope the changes will help eliminate schedule conflicts and provide opportunities for greater participation, as spiritual reflections, Bible studies and sponsor-led involvement are important for a successful RCIA experience.
Those interested in more information are encouraged to attend an introductory meeting on Saturday, August 28, at 9 a.m. in the St Thomas Parish Community Center at 720 East Beach Boulevard in Long Beach. Coffee and donuts will be served.
For questions, contact Dave Gauthier at 228-596-8835, or by email at email@example.com.