St Patrick’s of Smithtown
Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults
(Taken from the 2002
St. Patrick's 50th Anniversary Journal)
For adults and young people who wish to convert to Catholicsm or who have not received all the Sacraments of Initiation, two programs are available - the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) and RCIA Adapted for Children. Both programs run in a similar fashion. For the past four years, Father Frank Parisi and Deacon John Chott have directed both programs.
Catechumens (the unbaptized) and candidates (non-Catholics or not fully initiated Catholics) in the adult program meet weekly to study basic tenets of the faith, including beliefs regarding Jesus, the place of prayer, the Old and New Testaments, the Sacraments, the Mass, the Church's story, and Mary and the the Saints. Most weekly meetings take place in three different home groups and are led by a catechist. There, catechumens, candidates and RCIA team members cover a wide range of topics and discuss scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday Mass. Perhaps more importantly, team members, catechumens and candidates share life's journey for several months, truly becoming part of our parish community. Approximately once a month, all three groups meet at church for instruction. In recent years, the church meetings have featured "special events," such as the celebration of a Mass in which Father Frank pauses to explain various parts of the Liturgy, and a seder in which the Passover meal and its relationship to our present day Mass is explained. On the first Sunday of Advent, team members, catechumens, and candidates begin attending Mass together, and various Rites are celebrated, including the Rite of Welcome, the Rite of Election, and the First, Second, and Third Scrutinies. Full Initiation takes place at the Easter Vigil.
The children's program is run much the same only the material is geared for young people. Young people, usually ranging in age from seven or eight to high school age, meet once a week at church and attend Mass together. For the past four years, they have been instructed by Father Frank and Nacy Sanders. Highlights have included a tour of the rectory, a visit to the convent, and a special celebration of All Saints Day during which everyone dresses as their favorite saint. Most of the young people receive their Sacraments at Pentecost.
The RCIA program is relatively new within the Church. At St. Patrick's, it began in late 1982 as a part of the work of an Evangelization team started by Sister Nivard. in 1983, the process became know as the "Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults" (RCIA) and the Diocese began incorporating it into all parish communities. In our parish, Sister Nivard continued to lead the program in its early years. She was followed by the late Deacon Ray O'Dea. Sister Joy Castiglione, O.P. also directed the program for many years. Father Frank has guided the program since 1998.nbsp; An average of 15 adults and 15 young people go through the program each year.
Those who have been through the RCIA process tend to think of it as a time they always will treasure.
Patty Steinberg went through the RCIA process and received Sacraments in 2001. Three of her four children did the same in the RCIA Adapted for Children program.
"I enjoyed the weekly meetings and learned a lot about the Catholic faith," she said. "At the end of the program, the Easter Vigil was as beautiful as everyone had said. I met many wonderful people."
"I am continuing to learn this year by being a team member in RCIA and teaching a third grade religion class. I am sure the learning will never end, and I am looking forward to that."
Patty is one of many former catechumens and candidates who have joined the RCIA team.
Ironically, team members seem to "get back" more than they give to the process. Virginia Schmidt should know better than anyone. She has served as a team member and catechist for 20 years.
"Every year we meet people who are eager to learn about the Catholic faith and their enthusiasm is always an inspiration," she said. "Their ideas and questions help all of us to dig a little deeper. It's a journey we all make together."