The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) provides an opportunity for those curious about the Catholic faith to enter into a period of deep formation and catechesis. During the Easter Vigil at St Patrick’s Cathedral this year, 200 catechumens and candidates from more than 50 parish communities took part, the largest group to do so since the pandemic began. Eight of these came from Our Lady’s Parish in Craigieburn and Roxburgh Park.

Juliette Rosario is Our Lady’s RCIA coordinator, a role she has had for about ten years. She says that the eight candidates (including children) who took part last year represented a larger number than usual, although, excitingly, there are already seven registered to participate in the next round of RCIA this coming August.

The program is one Juliette designs herself, allowing her to be flexible with the needs of those who attend. Some people require the translation of materials; some aren’t physically able to attend in person, and others require greater flexibility with the schedule if they are pregnant.

‘Every year I get a variety of candidates with different needs,’ she explains. ‘I go out to them if need be. If they need more attention, I’m always there for them.’

One of the things Juliette asks her candidates to do at the end of the program is to write a short testimony. This allows them to look back over their life stories and to discover the grace of God in it all. These short testimonies are also published in their parish newsletter, which, Juliette says, is ‘a good way to have more people wanting to know about God’.

Juliette describes the experience of coordinating the RCIA as life-giving. ‘The more I do it, the more I gain. I’m privileged to be given the opportunity to meet the needs of those seeking a conversion.’

The following testimonies are taken from Our Lady’s Parish newsletter, and they speak powerfully to how enriching the RCIA journey can be.

The testimonies

‘I grew up in a community who believed in ancestral rituals, worships, shamanism and animalism,’ Xee Vang explains. ‘I always struggled to completely embrace these cultural beliefs … I started to question … as these rituals did not bring me any peace, joy or happiness, but instead I felt it was a huge burden.’

I guess I was always searching for God whom I could reach out to and feel at peace.

Xee describes a particularly low point in her life when stress and hardships pushed her to a kind of ‘breaking point’. It was during that time that she did something unexpected: she offered her grief to God in prayer.

‘After praying, I felt my anxiety dropped,’ she says. ‘I felt like a huge burden was taken from my shoulder. I felt at peace. Whatever I was going through, I knew there was a God whom I could reach out to and He was preparing me to be stronger for what was ahead of me.’

Kaying Xiong was raised in a Hmong community (a people from East and Southeast Asia). Like Xee, he says the beliefs and rituals he was raised with were ‘not something that brought happiness to myself and my family’. As they began to question the beliefs they were raised with, they felt less and less at peace. Although the family had been introduced to God through the Catholic school system here in Australia, it wasn’t until 2022 that they asked to explore more.

‘My initiation into the Catholic faith has been a very good experience for myself and my family and I am grateful that my quest for God has led me to Jesus,’ he says.

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Left to right: Pia, Yeng, Bee, Xee, Kaying, and Dylan at Our Lady’s Parish, Craigieburn and Roxburgh Park. Photo supplied.

Pia and Yeng Her likewise had an upbringing in religious beliefs that centred around shamans and the ritual worship of ancestral spirits (Yeng was also raised in a Hmong community in Laos). As they married and had children, they began to question these beliefs, and Pia says it ‘just did not seem right for us and we discussed the same with the family and wanted something better for our children.’

A Catholic friend invited them to Our Lady’s Parish, introducing them to the parish priest and the RCIA process. Although Pia was educated in a Catholic school, he says the program ‘refined most of the teachings that I had learnt in school and much more.

This whole faith journey has opened my eyes and my mind, and has made me a better person.

Having received the sacraments at Easter, they are hoping soon to baptise their children too. ‘Our faith journey has just begun, and through my personal prayer and that of our family, we are sure to be able to deepen our faith and become better individuals and good Catholics.’

Dylan Monro grew up in a culturally Greek Orthodox family for whom faith was not a priority. His journey to Catholicism began when he started dating a young woman from a Catholic family who was more active in her faith. ‘I became curious about God, Jesus Christ, and the Catholic faith,’ he explains.

But when he asked his girlfriend to marry him, he understood this went hand-in-hand with committing to become ‘a more religious person,’ so he joined Our Lady’s RCIA program.

‘I never knew there was so much to learn and understand about God’s love for us,’ he says. ‘I was guided through Scripture, liturgy, prayer life and how to open my heart to have a relationship with God. I learned about the person Jesus and how to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.’

Beexione Nhiaxengxione also came to faith through the invitation of a loved one. Born in Laos and growing up with a Buddhist background, she became exposed more often to Catholic liturgy and belief when she married a practising Catholic

‘I used to accompany John every Sunday for Mass and I enjoyed the services, and [that] is when my faith journey began,’ she says. ‘I then discussed with John about becoming a Catholic and the process to learn more about the faith.’

The RCIA process and teaching enriched me spiritually and gave me a new perspective to life … It gave me hope that life in Jesus will strengthen me and help me face the daily challenges of life.

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults workshop day

Saturday, 22 July 2023

Catholic Leadership Centre
576 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne

Clergy, RCIA teams and interested parishioners are warmly invited to attend an in-person seminar with Rev. Dr Elio Capra SDB to explore reasons and ways to place the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at the heart of parish renewal.