FOR Ted Chapman it was a matter of giving up ‘fringe status’, for Brooke Grainger a commitment to what she had believed for a long time, and for Merindy Shield an embracing of a treasure she had discovered by chance.
For all three, the climax of their journey was their acceptance into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass at St Peter Chanel Church, The Gap.
They were among almost 200 welcomed as new Catholics in Brisbane archdiocese this Easter.
Ted, a businessman in his mid-40s; Brooke, 20, a university student; and Merindy, 24, also a university student, completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in St Johns Wood/The Gap Parish.
Their diverse stories reflect the beauty of how the RCIA program serves people of all ages and backgrounds.
And their reflections on their experience of the Easter Vigil and their hopes show the joy the RCIA brings and the richness it offers the Church.
‘Overwhelming’, ’emotional’, ‘beautiful’, ‘moving’ and ‘meaningful’ were all words the trio used to describe the vigil, when they were joined in celebration by their family, friends and sponsors, and warmly welcomed by the wider community.
The moment had been a long time coming for Ted. His wife and four children are Catholic, and he had been part of the community for eight years, attending Mass and even playing the piano twice a month.
He had joked that he had enjoyed ‘fringe status’ initially.
‘But there came a time when commitment was required,’ he said. ‘I wanted to be adopted, not fostered.’
He saw his acceptance into the Church as being ‘taken into `the family’.
Ted had been an Anglican, and the RCIA program was like a revisiting of many of the faith issues with which he was already familiar.
But he said completing the program with two young women who were articulate about their faith and had inquiring minds ensured the process was challenging.
‘That was great to see,’ he said.
Although somewhat embarrassed about the amount of time his sponsor had to devote to the program, his sponsor assured him it was a worthwhile exercise for him to challenge his own faith.
Ted was also touched by the gestures of support that came from the community.
‘People who didn’t know me gave me cards (after the vigil Mass),’ he said.
Brooke and Merindy also appreciated the warmth of the welcome.
Brooke, who is part of the Mater Dei community at St Johns Wood, said that sense of welcome had been building in the weeks leading up to Easter as the parishioners came to know who the RCIA candidates were.
‘(After the vigil Mass) a family I’d never met before came up and gave me a card, welcoming me into the Church. That was really touching,’ she said.
‘And other people in the parish have been coming up and saying ‘How’s it going?’.’
Brooke had been baptised in the Uniting Church but had had no connection with the Church after that.
‘I went to a Catholic school in high school, I’m studying at a Catholic university – all my beliefs were Catholic – that’s all I knew.
‘This was formalising what I already believed.’
Brooke found the RCIA meetings a ‘safe’ environment where she felt comfortable asking questions.
Merindy also appreciated the openness of the discussion and liked the fact the program was held over six months because that allowed plenty of time to ask questions.
‘The discussions were interesting and it was good to hear other people’s opinions.
‘My only experience of religion was through the state school system, and I’d always been under the impression the Church was rigid.
‘But, hearing people’s different interpretations (during the RCIA program), even though we’ve all got the same ideals, was good for me.
‘I realised it was okay to have a slightly different view from someone else.’
Merindy had always believed in God but had been unChurched until walking into Mater Dei one Sunday about two years ago.
‘I went along initially to say ‘thanks’ (to God) because I’d been through a rough time,’ she said.
‘Initially it wasn’t a decision to choose Catholic – Mater Dei was the closest Christian Church to where I lived.
‘I liked what I heard. It mirrored what I believed so I kept coming along.’
Merindy was baptised and confirmed at the Easter Vigil in what she described as an emotional ceremony for her.
She is more than pleased with her decision to join the Church, saying she enjoys Mass on Sundays ‘very much’.
‘It’s the highlight of my week,’ she said.
‘I’ve got a lot out of it and I’m keen to give something back.’
Parish priest, Marist Father Tony Kennedy, said it had been an interesting RCIA journey with the mix of two younger university students and their sponsors, and the experience of a businessman in his mid-40s whose sponsor was a lawyer.
‘Discussions each week have been both engaging and informative, and if ever we needed evidence of the Church being open to fresh young directions we found it during our RCIA journey over the past six months,’ he said.