Byline: Bronislaus B. Kush
WORCESTER - Rachelle St. Laurent and Paul H. Julian have been traveling very different paths on their spiritual odysseys toward membership in the Roman Catholic Church.
But, after months of instruction and some deep soul searching, their extended journeys are nearing completion. On April 23, during Easter Vigil Masses, they, and several others from Central Massachusetts, will be formally welcomed into the local Catholic community.
Ms. St. Laurent and Mr. Julian are among the 327 people who have been taking part over the past year in the Diocese of Worcester's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, an apprenticeship of sorts for those seeking to become practicing Catholics.
According to Elizabeth A. Marcil, who directs the diocesan Office of Religious Education, the RCIA program includes formal instruction, public and private prayer, as well participation in social and charitable activities sponsored by the parishes, which the candidates seek to join.
"It's been a long journey for me," said Mr. Julian, a library assistant at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "It took me some time to make the decision."
Mr. Julian, who was raised in a Protestant household, decided to become a Catholic after a long period of consideration; reflection on old television talks given by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen; some inspiring homilies by the former rector at St. Paul's Cathedral, and a near fatal illness.
Meanwhile, Ms. St. Laurent, a 36-year-old Webster woman who was "casually" raised in the Jewish faith, said she was interested in becoming a Catholic because of the faith's strong sense of community and the spiritual benefits offered through its sacraments.
"I can really feel the Holy Ghost within me, when I attend Mass," said Ms. St. Laurent, an Oxford High School graduate, who is so inspired by the precepts of Catholicism that she volunteers almost daily at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Webster.
The RCIA is a process through which adults and older children are introduced and slowly immersed into the Catholic faith. It's also structured for baptized Catholics, who have not received Holy Communion or have not been confirmed.
Initiation rites date back to early Christianity when Christ's disciples instructed the "catechumens" about the "mysteries" of the fledgling faith.
Today, the RCIA features a number of formal stages that are punctuated by liturgical rites. The candidate completes the process by...