The Elect preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil, 2007, talk
about their experience of RCIA and look forward to the great days ahead
In Your Midst: What brought you to the
Catholic Church? To St. James?
Sarah, elect: I married into a
Catholic family but did not make any transition to Catholicism. I
used to come to church every Christmas with my husband (to make his mom
feel good). Then all of us—my son Taylor, my daughter Justine, and
my husband Greg—felt this calling. When we came here on Christmas
Eve in 2005, I knew I was home. And we’ve been here ever since.
Kathleen, Sponsor: I prayed for
fifteen years for this to happen. I used to say to the Blessed
Virgin Mary, ‘you’ll really be getting four people, because you’ll be
bringing my son back to the Church, too.’ And I’m so excited that
they’ll all be receiving communion.
IYM: So the children are coming in at
the same time?
Sarah: Yes, it’s all four of us,
because I had never been baptized either. It was strange that all
of us, at the same time, had individual experiences that brought us to
Kathleen: That’s the Blessed Virgin
Sarah: And now I’m so excited.
I’m ready. I want to do it now!
I started attending five or six years ago on a regular basis, and just
fell in love with the liturgy and the music here. Then I started
coming much more regularly when my wife joined the women’s Schola about
three years ago. I guess I’d been thinking about it in my heart
and my head for fifty years and finally decided it was time to get on
with the really important things in life, the things that really matter.
IYM: Mike, you’ve been a sponsor for
a long time. What’s special about being a sponsor?
To see the individuals accepting the Catholic faith for what it is.
They accept it and realize that this isn’t just something to jump into
and then jump out. This is something that’s for a whole lifetime.
Sometimes those that come in later in life accept the faith more
whole-heartedly than those who were baptized as babies!
Janie, Elect: My mother, my
grandmother, and my aunt were all from France, and they were all
Catholic. My mother married an Army officer, and later divorced.
As a result she was excommunicated so I was never raised Catholic.
My mother would go to church on her own, but she always had this
unfortunate sense of being an outcast. So I never practiced
anything; I basically stopped believing there was a God.
Then, here in Seattle, I met a wonderful man—from
Tokyo, but raised Catholic. I told him, I want to go to this
wonderful church that looks like a little St. Peter’s (I saw Rome when I
was fourteen). So we came here to St. James. The second time
I came on Christmas Eve. The procession was lined up in the back
of the church and the Archbishop came right up to me and said “Merry
Christmas, Happy New Year”—he didn’t talk to anyone else! I
thought, hmm! So we started coming here on special occasions like
Palm Sunday and Easter. I always sat next to a particular statue
because she reminded me of my grandmother. It turned out to be
Mother Cabrini. I’ve carried a relic card of her in my bag for
Even after my friend and I separated I still wanted to
continue coming to St. James. Eventually I joined RCIA and began
learning about prayer and believing in God. Which is really,
really great! I’m really happy and excited. And so many
friends, even Jewish friends, are coming to my baptism.
Santos, Elect: I kind of grew up
Catholic, attending Catholic schools. Becoming Catholic is
something I’ve always wanted to do. When I got to college I got
caught up in being young and free and now that I’ve grown out of that
stage this desire to become Catholic came back to me. It’s like
God is telling me to do it now, to move forward. I’m also getting
to a point in my life when I’m thinking about starting a family.
Receiving the sacraments, and being able to be married in the Church, is
important to me. I don’t know how I ended up at St. James! I
called around, I spoke with Helen, and it’s been a really good fit.
I’m glad I chose to stick with the program here. This has become a
home for me.
IYM: For the catechumens, what’s been
the most surprising part of the process—maybe something you were
expecting but didn’t encounter, or something you encountered that you
Janie: For me it was learning how to
pray. I say learning because I never believed in prayer.
After all the tragedies in my family, people passing in cruel ways,
divorce, I honestly couldn’t believe in prayer. But now prayer has
become a natural process for me. When I called my aunt, my
mother’s sister, and said, “Well, what do you think [about me being
baptized]?” she said, “Memèe would be so happy! Her prayer was
answered.” (Memèe is my grandmother in heaven.) I said, “She
was praying for this?” So there you go—you never know!
Sarah: I can relate to that. I
can remember at twelve years old rejecting God, and saying, God doesn’t
exist. I knew that my mother-in-law prayed the rosary every day.
At church I would watch my husband go through the motions. For me
the biggest learning has been that I don’t necessarily need to know
everything in order to pray. I can just speak to God, and that is
prayer. I’ve seen the blessings come as a result of prayer—and
that’s really strange! I just have to open my heart. I don’t
have to know every word of a particular prayer; God is still going to
Santos: The unexpected thing for me
has been the community here. I wasn’t expecting the kind of
welcome I’ve received. I guess I always expected it to be a
private thing: this is for me—this is what I’m doing—this is
between me and God. And it turns out to be more of a community
thing. It’s nice to know that there are other people there who
share the same faith. It’s still personal, but it’s also shared.
Landy: For me it’s the bonding, the
love that is shared with the group—sponsors, fellow candidates and
catechumens. And it’s always on your own terms—you’re not pushed
or rushed or asked to do anything you’re uncomfortable with. I
really like that.
IYM: Let me ask the sponsors:
what is your job, your role in helping to guide a catechumen through all
these rites to Easter?
Kathleen: Actually, as a cradle
Catholic, the process has been very good for me. I went through
Catholic school, but that was at a time when just about everything was a
sin! I think just being available, keeping my hand open, telling
Sarah, “let’s talk about it, let’s take a walk, let’s see where you’re
at,” but never pushing it.
Sarah: And she has never, ever done that. It’s amazing!
She has just been a great example of what the Catholic faith is.
Mike: You don’t push. Each person
accepts the faith at their own level.
IYM: Let’s talk about the future.
What are you most looking forward to in the next few weeks?
Sarah: I just want to be baptized!
Landy: As Helen was going through the
calendar earlier, I was thinking about how splendid and momentous the
next few weeks would be. I should keep a journal of this time, because
it’s going to go by really fast and I want to hang on to it somehow.
Santos: I’m most looking forward to
actually going through these sacraments. I’ve watched so many
other people, go through this, so I know what happens. I just
don’t know how it feels. That’s the biggest thing I’m looking
Janie: I’m just looking forward to my
baptism! I started this in April of 2005, and I just want to see
how all these celebrations unfold. I’ll just see what comes to me,
what new surprises.
IYM: What do you tell your friends who ask
you why you are becoming Catholic? What is it about the Catholic
Church that grabbed you the most, that you want to share with others?
Sarah: For me being Catholic just
makes sense. I remember coming in and asking Helen all these
questions. I was determined to have it not make sense and not be a
fit. So when people ask me, I tell them it’s not because my
husband is a Catholic, because I could have done it many years ago.
It’s just because it makes sense. I just felt a calling to be a
Janie: For me it was St. James,
honestly. When I came here, I loved the community and people.
Call it eclectic, but I loved the combination of all the different
cultures and races. I also liked the way I was accepted when I
came in. And then meeting Helen, and beginning to read about the
history of the Church, there was just a wholeness. If you had told
me four years ago that this would happen, I would have said, ‘you’ve got
the wrong person. Not a chance.’ But the combination of
study, the people, the parish, and understanding the faith has brought
me in. I have to laugh, because of all religions, honestly, this
was the one that was like, “no way!”
Sarah: Sometimes people ask me, isn’t
being Catholic about feeling ashamed and guilty all the time? And
I haven’t had that experience of the Church at all. I tell them
IYM: Do you find the year-long
process a good thing? Or is it really hard?
Janie: It felt right! This is
the first time I’ve made a commitment to something just for myself.
And it will have been two years. That’s impressive. If I had
been told when I started, you have to do this for two years, and then
you’ll be done, I would have said, I don’t know about that. But
it’s really flown! And that commitment is helping me now, in
making other decisions.
Santos: I really think the year-long
process helps develop a community, it helps you understand the faith,
and share it with other people. It’s really a privilege and a gift
to be baptized.
Sarah: I think the wait is great
because I have learned so much in the past year. When I look back
to when I began I realize that I had put up so many walls which have
gradually been broken down. My faith has grown, and I have a
clearer understanding of what this is all about. This isn’t a
commitment for a day, this is a lifetime decision. I needed the
time to process, to understand. I didn’t know much about Jesus or
the Bible or any of that stuff. So I needed the time.
Kathleen: I have to say that as
Sarah’s sponsor when I heard that the process would take at least a year
I thought to myself, a whole year? But it has been wonderful.
I said to my husband when I was leaving tonight, the time has gone by so
fast! I can’t believe it’s almost here.