For centuries, it has been customary to receive new members into the Catholic Church at Easter. At Saint Vincent, the custom will continue, as five students either receive Baptism or enter into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass.
To prepare for the event, the students have taken part in a program known as RCIA — the “Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.” It’s the Catholic Church’s catechetical process for those who are interested in joining.
Saint Vincent’s Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation, Bridget DiVittis, head of the RCIA program at the college, explained what RCIA is like.
“The process usually begins in September and continues to Easter and we only meet when school is in session. We meet once a week for about an hour and we discuss aspects of the Catholic Faith. Sometimes, we might go off topic, depending on questions the students might have. It is more of a continual conversation versus a ‘class’,” she said.
This year, one student, Francis King, will receive all the sacraments of initiation — that is, he will be baptized, confirmed and receive communion. Three others — Hannah Earhart, Bailey DeTesta and Anthony Massetto— were baptized Protestant and thus will receive only Communion and Confirmation. The last candidate, Granville Wagner, will only be confirmed.
Earhart, a senior middle-grade education major, explained that her experiences at Saint Vincent impelled her to join the program and the Church.
“When I came to Saint Vincent I encountered so many young people with such a sincere devotion to their faith, something that was not as prevalent in other churches I had attended, that I was intrigued,” she said.
Consequently, Earhart decided to seek more information about Catholicism. She had no intention of joining the Church, she explained, but she had been raised with an openness to all faith and wanted to do justice to her friends’ beliefs.
“I was surprised to find that so much of what my friends shared with me seemed to make perfect sense and just naturally clicked with my own personal beliefs and mindsets,” Earhart said.
Nevertheless, Earhart took plenty of time to examine her own beliefs. She attended a few RCIA sessions as a junior, but wasn’t yet sure the time was right to join the Church. She made her decision last fall.
“The beauty and profound truth I discovered as I continued to learn was too much to ignore; I had always had a strong faith that was central to my life and a devotion to what I knew was true, and Catholicism seemed to hold that same truth, but somehow more,” Earhart said.
DiVittis pointed out that the goal of the RCIA program is not so much to convert as to inform.
“Our job is not to push them into becoming Catholic but to discuss with them where they are in their faith journey and along the way, find out if they are ready to become Catholic,” she said.
Earhart agreed, explaining that she never felt pressured to join the Church or uncomfortable as a non-Catholic at the college.
“During all of my time at Saint Vincent, never once did I feel pressured or isolated because of a difference in faith due to the loving diligence of my friends. I was continuously invited to participate in Campus Ministry events with little concern for the fact that I wasn’t Catholic,” she said.