By Dave Jolivet
EAST FREETOWN, Mass. — For several months, dozens of individuals who have felt the call to become members of the Catholic Church have been preparing for Baptism or full communion with the Church. With the help and guidance of their sponsors, team members of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program, and pastors, the candidates have been learning what God is saying to them in Scripture and what it means to be a full member of the Catholic Church.
The hard work, dedication and reflection comes to full bloom during Lent, particularly Holy Week, when at the Easter Vigil, the individual is lovingly welcomed into the Church by family, friends and the parish community.
Much of the preparation is a learning process. The diocesan Office of Faith Formation, which coordinates the RCIA program, is offering this year’s candidates, their godparents and sponsors, and RCIA team members the opportunity to feel in their hearts what they have read and studied, with an RCIA retreat on Palm Sunday, April 9 at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown.
The retreat, to be led by Deacon Bruce Bonneau, assistant director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, is themed “Leave the Ashes, Take the Fire.”
“This is a very powerful and meaningful day for those involved,” Bonneau told The Anchor. “Last year many of the candidates felt the love God has for them in a concrete way and that was a very good lead-in to Holy Week which is the culmination of their decision to become members of the Catholic Church.
“The theme implies the transition from the repentant time of Ash Wednesday to becoming inflamed with the fire of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, when the Lenten season ends.”
The retreat day not only fills the candidates with the hope and love of the Father, but the sponsors, godparents and team members also come away with a renewed and revived spirit. “For those of us who were baptized as infants, we never had the chance to reflect on what the Sacrament really means,” said Bonneau. “So during the course of the day when the candidates are sharing what receiving Baptism means to them, it helps us reflect on something we may have never truly thought about.”
The day begins at 1:30 p.m., following a brief registration period.
“We open with an introductory prayer, but it’s an interactive prayer,” added Bonneau. “Everyone has the opportunity to share what spoke to them in that prayer and about coming into the Church.”
Bonneau will next lead a conference concentrating on the day’s theme. “Lent is a time of purification and prayer — from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost,” he said. “We will explain what they will experience in the following days — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.
“This is not a theological presentation, but a reflection on what experiences they will encounter during Holy Week.”
There will be time to spend before the Blessed Sacrament and for reflection and prayer. “The attendees are free to go wherever they choose during that time,” said Bonneau. “The grounds in East Freetown are beautiful and quiet and the perfect place for one to absorb the sights and sounds of the day.”
Following a group sharing session, Bonneau will lead a second conference, with the focus on the fact that Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil are not separate Liturgies, but all one prayer. “And it’s a prayer that carries on throughout the year and throughout one’s life,” he added.
Closing prayer is held in the chapel.
A dinner caps off the day, where more sharing often takes place while breaking bread.
“I’m very pleased to be involved in this,” Bonneau told The Anchor. “I get so much out of it. It’s energizing for everyone who is here.”
The registration cut off date is April 4. For more information, or to register, call Rose Mary at 508-678-2828.