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Brisbane mum counting down the days to becoming Catholic in August

Waiting faithfully: Casey Arden pictured with her two daughters Willow and Violet, will be received into the Catholic Church in August. The 35 year old has been waiting to complete her journey into the Church since COVID-19 prevented the Sacrament of Initiation normally held at Easter.

WHENEVER Casey Arden got into trouble as a young girl, or if she had a burning question about life, she “straight away put up a prayer” to God.

It was an unusual habit for a child with no exposure to Christianity at home – until late last year, she didn’t even know what the Holy Spirit was.

But for 35 years, prayer has been Mrs Arden’s automatic response in times of need.

Weeks before what would have been this year’s Easter Vigil, Mrs Arden put up another prayer, one to deal with the disappointing news that she and thousands of others around the world needed to delay one major event in their life.

Why, God, can’t I enter the Catholic Church at Easter?

Widespread shutdowns due to COVID-19 called for the suspension of Mass and closure of churches around the world, including in the Brisbane archdiocese, where Mrs Arden was going to solidify her commitment to God by becoming Catholic Church on April 18.

Traditionally, the Church receives people who freely decide to enter the Catholic Church during the Easter liturgies.

A large number are received at the Easter Vigil Mass, a beautiful and symbolic liturgy which emphasises the light that Christ and his Church shine on the darkness of the world.

For Mrs Arden, that night would have marked her strongest commitment to God.

“I think I envisioned it as that final commitment – I feel like God’s always been there, and he’s been guiding me, and it’s my way of also thanking Him,” Mrs Arden said.

“It will happen, it’s just a matter of when.”

Mrs Arden, who is married with two young girls to Dan Arden, said she has always wanted to become a Catholic.

“I’ve moved around a lot including interstate a lot – I’ve never been in one area for longer than a year – so it was hard to commit to a church to commit to the Church,” she said.

She also found it difficult to find information for non-baptised adults who want to enter the Church.

Mrs Arden got what seemed to be an answer to a life-long prayer at her second daughter’s baptism, when the priest conferring the sacrament told her about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process developed for prospective converts.

Mrs Arden waited until her family were settled in one place before she could make the call.

When she and her husband, who is in the Australian Army reserve, bought a house in Margate and decided to settle down, she discovered her local parish offered the RCIA course.

Brigidine Sister Janette Marsh and Redcliffe parish priest Fr Bob Harwood took Mrs Arden under their wings.

After attending an Alpha course, designed to introduce people to the basic tenets of Christianity, she began the RCIA journey earlier this year.

Her 35 years of searching would have ended at Easter, so it was an emotional roller coaster to then be told that her final commitment to God was going to be postponed.

“That was really disappointing,” Mrs Arden said.

“I definitely feel it’s just a set back but it’s not that I’m giving up.

“I feel like this peace knowing that I’m heading in the right direction in formalising my faith.”

And there won’t be long to wait – the Archdiocese of Brisbane has given parishes a proposed date to celebrate the Sacrament of Initiation.

In a letter to parishes, the Archdiocese proposed that all 124 catechumens be received into the Church during the Sunday Mass (including Saturday Vigil Mass) for August 2.

During these Masses, the catechumens can receive the sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion.

The letter also stated that candidates, or people baptised in another Christian denomination, could be received into the Church “at any time that is pastorally and liturgically appropriate”.

“These celebrations have come later this year as it has been a time like no other but it is with great joy that we look to celebrating these sacraments within our parish communities,” the letter said.

Parishes have also been given advice on celebrating the three scrutinies that precede the Sacrament of Initiation.

The scrutinies, usually celebrated during third, fourth and five Sundays of Lent, are rites celebrated before a congregation that examine the catechumen’s intention to enter the Catholic Church, and are reinforced by a series of exorcisms, or prayers of healing.

The resources for parishes, including the adapted prayers of scrutiny and rite of initiation, have been prepared by Liturgy Brisbane.

Additional prayer cards by Evangelisation Brisbane have been sent to parishes so parishioners  can pray for the elect.

Liturgy Brisbane director Fr Tom Elich said the proposed date of the sacrament meant catechumens could conclude their journey of preparing to enter the Church together.

He said the August 2 proposal was not compulsory for parishes, as another date could be chosen if it is more pastorally appropriate, but having one potential date could help unify the catechumens in the Archdiocese.

“These people have been preparing for a year or more,” Fr Elich said.

“We needed to organise a time to do it and to wait until next year doesn’t seem to be reasonable, so it was a matter of trying to find a time when all the parishes might do it together.

“They were all together at the beginning of Lent for Rite of Election, so to have a coordinated approach rather than parishes doing bits and pieces at any other time.”

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