Imminent reception into the Church brings excitement
Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry offers an annual Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program for individuals who are interested in entering the Roman Catholic Church. Christina Enciso, a current freshman and Short Course RCIA candidate will receive the sacrament of confirmation this Easter season.
“My family is Catholic but we just stopped going to Mass when I was little. I went to Catholic high school, but I always thought of [Catholicism] as something I just learned in classes,” Enciso shared.
It was not until she came to Notre Dame that Enciso had a desire to begin attending Mass regularly. “When I came here, I wanted to start going to Mass on Sundays because there is a chapel in every dorm so it is very convenient,” she said.
Notre Dame students who are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith or converting to Catholicism can participate in either of two RCIA programs. The first is a one-semester course for young adults who have already been baptized in the Catholic faith. This program, known as Short Course, prepares them to be received into full communion through receiving confirmation and first Communion. The second program is a two-semester course designed for individuals entirely new to the faith or already Catholic Christian but lacking thorough formation.
At the Easter Vigil Mass in the basilica on April 16, all three sacraments of initiation will be administered. The rite of Full Communion and Confirmation will take place on April 24, Divine Mercy Sunday, at 2 p.m. for Enciso and other Short Course and RCIA participants.
According to Grace Rish, a freshman RCIA sponsor, “About two-thirds of people in the program are just confirmandi, while another one-third of people [will receive] baptism, first communion, and confirmation.” Rish attributed these numbers to the fact that Notre Dame attracts a majority of applicants who from a young age have at least been introduced to Catholicism. The student body is 80% Catholic, according to Don Bishop, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment.
Enciso explained what going through RCIA entails on a weekly basis: “On Sundays, we go to Mass together and then we go to [the Coleman-Morse Center] and listen to a presentation on Church teaching. We finish with prayer and talking in small groups.”
Enciso shared that she enjoys the weekly Sunday formation and although she is excited to be confirmed, she is almost disappointed that the meetings will come to an end soon.
“For me, [RCIA] has changed the way I interact with people and the way I participate in my classes and schoolwork. Instead of being so focused on myself, I am trying to think about things the way we are taught about them in RCIA,” Enciso said.
Rish explained how once a month, the sponsors and candidates gather together at campus minister Brett Perkin’s house for dinner, fellowship, and community. Rish said, “At those events, the boundary between sponsor and candidate is gone for the evening. No one is a sponsor, no one is a candidate, you are all just part of a Christian community—and that is a really great thing!”
The RCIA program is formative for both candidates and sponsors alike. Enciso’s sponsor Lauren Douglas, also a freshman, shared what RCIA has meant to her. “As a theology major, being able to go from my classes where we are talking about a certain topic [and then] into RCIA on Sundays where we may discuss the same subject, but in a catechetical method, is influential,” she said.
“Sometimes I will write an essay about a saint or a theologian in one of my classes and then we will be examining that same subject in RCIA. For me that is one of the indicators that [the] theology [program] at Notre Dame is pretty good!” Douglas said.
The RCIA program offers a community-grounded and spiritually-nourishing way to be involved with Campus Ministry and faith life on campus. Rish highlighted, “If you have been raised Catholic in the Church and you are comfortable sharing your faith with another person, I would highly recommend doing it. It’s really fun and you reinvigorate your own faith.”
Margaret Mathis is a freshman classics major pursuing minors in constitutional studies and business economics. Margaret loves sewing and hopes to become an attorney. When she is not narrowly escaping trademark infringement while hand-sewing the Notre Dame logo onto everything she owns, she can be found translating Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Hesburgh library. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: “A Mass with the sacrament of confirmation and rite of Reception into Full Communion was celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and concelebrated by rector Father Brian C. Ching, C.S.C., right. on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, University of Notre Dame.” – Peter Ringenberg/University of Notre Dame