Image Courtesy of Zach Rinehart
By Anna Harvey
On Saturday, April 16 seven students were welcomed into the fullness of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, taking place at St. Vincent de Paul chapel. These seven students had participated in Catholic University’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program since the fall of 2021, and after many lessons, one-on-one peer mentorship sessions, and reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, these students were fully prepared to enter into full unity with the Church.
Over the course of the last few years, Fr. Andrzej Brzezinski from Campus Ministry has continuously run the RCIA program. Each year, he asks several Catholic upperclassmen to assist with leading weekly lessons and providing one-on-one peer mentoring for each of the RCIA candidates. This year, the student leaders include Sarah Tiufekchiev, Zach Rinehart, Anna Harvey, and Maria St. Clair. The 2021-22 RCIA candidates include Alexa Wienclaw, Caleb Kiehnau, Matthew Allen, Megan Metzger, Peter Sullivan, Stephanie Okafor, and Jillian Ingram.
Freshman medieval studies major Matthew Allen stated that for him, the decision to convert began even before his academic career at Catholic University.
“One of the three reasons I came to CUA was to get baptized. I’ve waited four years for that,” Allen said. “The Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, ‘After the honeymoon comes the long haul, the commitment.’”
Many of the candidates had already been baptized; after receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation in the week prior to the Vigil, these candidates were ready to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
One candidate, Stephanie Okafor, a senior business major at Howard University, had already received the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, and Eucharist and received only the sacrament of Confirmation at the Vigil.
Three of the candidates—Wienclaw, Allen, and Kiehnau—received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, receiving all three Sacraments of Initiation in one night.
Allen described his journey through RCIA as “a grand adventure. As a convert, it is not something you planned on, and like an adventure, it jumps out as a bolt from the blue. When they say you cannot help falling in love, that is emphatically right with God, and yet, not enough. What it means to me to be Catholic—to enter the body of Christ—is to plunge into the unceasing ocean of goodness and all that goodness entails. All humans crave to be whole, and goodness itself is the final piece.”
The Vigil began with a candlelit entrance of the celebrants, concelebrants, RCIA candidates, and sponsors into the chapel. The Liturgy of the Word included three different readings, each followed by a psalm. Following the Gospel Acclamation and the Gospel, Fr. Jude DeAngelo spoke briefly on the importance of each of the candidates joining the Catholic faith.
The celebration then proceeded to the baptism of Wienclaw, Kiehnau, and Allen, whereby each candidate stepped into a large pool, and DeAngelo poured water thrice over the head of the candidate, baptizing him or her in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Following the sprinkling rite, in which DeAngelo gave the congregation a resplendent dose of sprinkling holy water, DeAngelo called all candidates and their sponsors to the front and conferred upon the candidates the sacrament of Confirmation, marking each candidate’s forehead with holy chrism.
Lastly, following the Liturgy of the Eucharist, each RCIA candidate received the final sacrament of initiation, the Holy Eucharist.
After the celebration of the Vigil concluded, candidates and their families rejoined members of the RCIA core team for a reception.
Reflecting upon the Vigil, Allen pondered his new future as a member of the Church.
“So going forward, I pray for patience, fortitude, humility, and faith,” Allen said. “[C]oincidentally, the Holy Spirit aids that struggle. God never fails to provide for us.”