Easter Sunday, falling this year on April 17, is fast approaching, which means that Saint Leo University’s RCIA group is hard at work.
For those unfamiliar with the acronym, RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, the name of the process by which an adult prepares to become Catholic.
A person becomes Catholic through the sacrament of baptism, which typically takes place shortly after birth. Other initiatory sacraments—such as first holy Communion and confirmation—will follow later, taking place as the baptized infant becomes older and grows into young adulthood. However, when an adult wishes to enter the Catholic Church and be baptized, the process looks a little different.
RCIA takes the introductory faith formation and education process—which ordinarily occurs throughout the childhood of a Catholic baptized as a baby—and condenses it into a shorter, oftentimes more intense course that takes place for about a year prior to baptism.
“It is a very diverse journey of faith for those who have never heard the name of Jesus or who have never had the opportunity to dive more deeply,” said Lucas Nocera, who is the coordinator of the RCIA program at Saint Leo and the university’s music minister. “We cover the entirety of the Catholic Creed and salvation history, the sacraments, morality, and the need of both Scripture and tradition.”
RCIA is conducted through a parish church; however, when college students began to show interest in joining the Catholic Church, Saint Leo’s University Ministry saw an opportunity to step in.
“The RCIA program was established in Fall 2020, when a few students came to University Ministry asking to become Catholic,” Nocera said. “In 2021, two people came into the Church.”
Since the program began on campus, more students have shown interest and began the process. This year, with six students in RCIA, Saint Leo has its largest group.
“Most catechumens—people who are preparing to be baptized—come into the program through word of mouth and recommendation from friends,” Nocera said. “We have four catechumens who will be receiving all three sacraments of initiation, one student who will receive the Eucharist and confirmation, and one who will be receiving confirmation.”
Kyle Desmond, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, is one of the students preparing for initiation into the Church this Easter.
“I always wanted to become one with God and one with the Church,” Desmond said on his decision to become Catholic.
Desmond says that he found out about Saint Leo’s RCIA program through Dr. Thomas Humphries, an associate professor of philosophy, religion, and theology at Saint Leo. Humphries introduced Desmond to Nocera and will be serving as Desmond’s baptismal sponsor—a role similar to that of a child’s godparents, in which the sponsor serves as a spiritual parent or mentor that encourages the catechumen to remain faithful to the Church.
Nocera meets with the group once a week for formation and discussion. The preparatory RCIA classes have provided an excellent opportunity for Desmond and other students to learn more about the traditions of the Catholic Church.
“It’s preparing me to become baptized,” said Desmond. “Father Randall [Meissen] and Lucas are the most inspiring apostles and teachers.”
Desmond and three other catechumens from Saint Leo—Manny Sado, Max Mischenko, and Darrell Passigue—will be receiving the sacrament of Baptism during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16, the night before Easter Sunday. The Easter Vigil Mass will take place at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, a local parish near University Campus; Meissen, Saint Leo’s university chaplain, will be the celebrant and will administer all of the sacraments to the RCIA students.
The other two students, Jason Kaczynski and Veronica Vasquez, who have already been baptized, were welcomed into full communion with the Church earlier this month. On April 3, also at St. Anthony of Padua, Kaczynski received his first Communion, and both received the sacrament of confirmation—with Kaczynski taking the patron saint name of St. John Paul II and Vasquez taking the name of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Father Lucius Amarillas, one of the Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey and an adjunct religion instructor at the university, co-celebrated the Mass with Meissen and administered these first sacraments to Kaczynski and Vasquez.
Students who are interested in becoming Catholic or learning more about Saint Leo’s RCIA program should contact Nocera through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or they may stop by University Ministry’s new offices on the second floor of the Wellness Center for more information.
To read more about Saint Leo’s catechumens and the Rite of Election that was celebrated in March with Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg’s Bishop Gregory Parkes, read https://gulfcoastcatholic.org/searching-darkness-more-250-say-yes-gods-invitation-0
Alora Peters is a junior and is the editor-in-chief, of The Lions’ Pride Media Group.