Catholics encouraged to invite others to discover the faith
By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week (For an enlarged view of the photo, click here.)
MOBILE — A personal invitation can ultimately be life-changing.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes are set to begin at parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Mobile. It’s the months-long program for prospective converts to the Catholic faith, culminating at the Easter Vigil.
Ask those who have gone through the RCIA process and they’ll likely say they were personally invited to attend.
“I would think 100 percent or mighty close to it (were invited),” Archdiocese of Mobile Director of Evangelization and Family Life Pat Arensberg said about those who converted to Catholicism.
“Can you imagine hearing something on Catholic radio and reading stuff on the Internet? That’s great and fine, but if you don’t know any Catholics and you drive by a Catholic church, can you imagine the moxie it would take to go find how to become a part of this? No. It’s the personal invitation.”
But discussing faith with others is often something that makes Catholics uncomfortable.
Arensberg said we often share recommendations for businesses or products, so why should our faith be different?
“We don’t hesitate at all to invite people to good restaurants. If we find a restaurant we really like, we tell people about it all the time,” he said. “We should do the same with our faith. If our faith matters to us, if we believe Jesus is Christ and we believe He died for our sins and we believe that living with Him brings us freedom, joy and peace, we should be sharing that.”
Parish RCIA programs generally include classes once a week and each parish has its own curriculum, but Arensberg said all teach the basics of the faith.
Each meeting includes a presenter, but Arensberg said each program is also “conversational” as those inquiring about the faith have varied backgrounds.
“You have people that span the gamut of formation,” he said. “You have some people who haven’t been baptized into any Church and then you have the person who is the fervent Baptist. Those are very different places and they’re in the same group, so there’s always room for questions and follow-up as to what’s being said.”
While some parishes have begun their RCIA classes, it’s not too late to start attending.
Attending RCIA also doesn’t require a commitment as it is for those inquiring about the faith.
But those who would consider inquiring about the faith likely need that personal invitation.
“(One tip is to) invite the person to come with you,” Arensberg said. “ ‘Hey, this program is beginning. I’m going to go to it on Tuesday night. Can I pick you up?’ Turn it into two people hanging out.’ ”
“We’re hesitant to invite because we’re afraid you’re going to be offended. We have to throw caution to the wind in that sense.”