Stories of faith abound as people prepare to enter the church

Lindsay Steele
Luke Gregory, director of RCIA, Lifelong Faith Formation and Senior High Youth Ministry for Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, reads the names of the catechumens from his parish during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City on March 1.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

See photos from this event HERE!

IOWA CITY — Two years ago, Abby Glann and her four children entered the Catholic Church at St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville during the Easter Vigil. Her husband Andrew was there to cheer on his family but not quite ready to make the decision to join the church himself.

A little more than a year later, he began taking Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes. He didn’t tell his wife, however. He wanted it to be a surprise, and planned to keep it a secret until the parish announced RCIA candidates. Abby accidentally found out beforehand but was excited, nonetheless. “To have him be able to participate in the Eucharist is a big deal.”

Andrew said of his decision to enter the Catholic Church, “I wanted to be a better leader in the family and help the kids feel like this is a good thing. I want to be a good role model.” He is now a step closer to receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Communion, having participated in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion on March 1 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.

Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the liturgy, in which 62 catechumens and 85 candidates took the next step to entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. Catechumens will receive all three sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil: baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Candidates are individuals validly baptized in the Catholic Church or in another Christian denomination and preparing to receive the sacraments of Eucharist and/or confirmation. During the liturgy, the catechumens and candidates became the elect, accepting the call to continuing conversion.

Catechumen Amanda Hammes said she was not ready to become Catholic several years ago when she married her husband Gavin, a cradle Catholic. “I grew up unbaptized. I had a lot of questions,” she said. Last summer, she began to feel as if something were missing from her life, so she signed up for RCIA classes at St. Mary Parish in Fairfield. “I don’t know what hit me,” she recalled, but everything felt right, and she is grateful to have found “a family” among her classmates, teachers, clergy and fellow parishioners. On the Easter Vigil, Amanda will receive the sacraments of initiation and daughter Avrie, 6, will receive the sacrament of baptism.

Ken Guthrie, also of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield, attended a Friends (Quaker) church as a child, but had been a “free agent” since the age of 16. Listening to a local EWTN radio stream sparked his interest in the Catholic Church. He also will receive all three sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.

Catechumen Brianna Aebischer, 14, learned about the Catholic faith through her stepmother and Catholic friends and often attends Mass with her friend Stella Allen’s family at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton. “I just kind of liked it,” Brianna said. Stella’s father, Mark Allen is Brianna’s sponsor. He said of Brianna, “She asks good questions, listens. She’s a remarkable young lady.”

Catechumen Sarina Miller signed up for RCIA classes at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport after being asked to serve as her niece’s godparent. Miller is from a Catholic family but she had not been baptized herself. “I thought it was good time to become Catholic,” she said. The classes have been “eye opening,” and she likes the community she has found at St. Anthony’s. “Everyone is so giving and supportive.”

Bishop Zinkula explained to the catechumens and candidates what it means to be “elected” in the Catholic Church. “When we hear ‘elect’ we usually think of politics … In the religious sense it is very different. It’s about being called by name, being chosen by God.” However, it is up to the individual to decide whether to respond to that call.

Bishop Zinkula also had a message for those who are fully initiated members of the Catholic Church, who will renew their baptismal promise at the Easter Vigil: “(We) give thanks and praise to God, having been called by name to follow Jesus with joy, humility and gratitude.”

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