CHARLESTON—The folks who have dedicated themselves to years of prayer, discernment and study in order to become Catholic are going to have to wait a little longer.
Hundreds of people around the Diocese of Charleston were due to come into the Church at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. Traditionally, that is when catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation; and candidates are confirmed and receive the Eucharist.
That celebration, along with all other public Masses for Holy Week and Easter, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis. In a letter sent to priests, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said that, according to Vatican directions, those who were due to enter the Church will now do so on Pentecost, which falls on May 31.
Pentecost is a suitable day because it “celebrates the activity of the Holy Spirit, which animates the Church,” said Michael Martocchio, director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation.
“There is no clearer place to observe the activity of the Holy Spirit than in the lives of those joining the Church,” Martocchio said.
“Our job is to embrace the Holy Spirit and the call to share the Gospel with all those we encounter,” he continued. “Those joining the Church this Pentecost have responded to that Gospel message.”
And they have responded despite difficulties, such as having to end the in-person sessions of RCIA, which is the formal way people interested in becoming Catholic learn about the faith.
“Some of our candidates and catechumens are OK with it and others are disappointed, but I think everybody understands why we have to do this,” said Catherine Combier-Donovan, director of adult formation at St. John Neumann Church in Columbia. “Nobody wants to gather in a group to do anything at this time, so we have to go online.”
Combier-Donovan and other RCIA leaders are relying on the internet to continue formation. She said she has been sending RCIA participants reflections on the Sunday Mass readings, as well as links to sites that offer prayer and study guides about the faith.
She said one of the most disappointing aspects of the disruption is that catechumens will miss participating in the “scrutinies,” special liturgical rites for those who have not been baptized that are held on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent.
During the scrutinies, catechumens examine their lives, gain a better understanding of sin and say special prayers asking evil to depart from their lives.
Patrick Best, who attends St. James Church in Conway, was looking forward to entering the Church with his wife Jennifer, who is also his sponsor, by his side. Best is a convert and, like many others in RCIA, his journey to becoming Catholic was long and challenging.
He is taking the delay in stride, however, and offered a simple response to the situation.
“I just say ‘Not my will but yours be done, Father,” he said.