Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus call people to Himself. He welcomes them with love and preaches the Good News — that He has come to seek and to save the lost, and that He is the fullness of truth through which all can find salvation. When Christ ascended to heaven, He left us with the Holy Spirit and the gift of His Church so that we could continue to come to know Him and, through His grace, live our lives in union with Him.
Nevertheless, some people do not know Christ or have not experienced the saving power of His grace through the sacraments — but still, He welcomes them in. Through the Order of Christian Initiation process (OCIA), we welcome them in our Catholic faith.
“The Order of Christian Initiation is a path that the Church has provided for many years for individuals interested in becoming Catholic, or even those who are discerning becoming Catholic who want to learn more,” says Fr. Russ Kovash.
If you realize this is you or someone you know, Fr. Kovash encourages you to come and learn. All are welcome and there is no pressure.
OCIA consists of weekly classes where Fr. Kovash will delve into what it means to be Catholic.
“We will discuss what the Church believes about many different topics,” he says. “And we will also talk about why the Church teaches what she does. I am very passionate about what I believe to be true, and I want to share that truth with others.”
OCIA provides a particularly grace-filled avenue for just that. Yet, Fr. Kovash is quick to point out that OCIA is much more than a place to gain knowledge of the Catholic faith.
“Knowledge is important,” he says. “God created us to want to know, and He wants us to learn more. But beyond that, OCIA is about our relationship with God. This is about more than just believing what we know to be true. It is about figuring out Who I belong to.”
We belong to Christ, and He wants us to come to know Him as our friend and our savior while bringing our lives into conformity with His teaching. Christ calls us to discipleship — to actively live out the faith we profess.
Fr. Kovash says he finds the OCIA process particularly edifying because as people come to know more about what it means to be Catholic, many of them grow in their faith and respond to God’s grace. And for Fr. Kovash, as a shepherd whose role is to help the sheep on their journey to Christ, witnessing this journey is truly awe-inspiring — it is a gift.
OCIA classes begin Sept. 28 from 6:20 to 8 p.m. and will be held every Thursday thereafter leading up to Easter. They will be held in the Community Room of the Parish Center.
So, who should attend?
OCIA is meant for multiple groups of people — those who are not baptized and are interested in becoming Catholic, please come! Those who have been baptized Christian — either through the Catholic Church or through a Protestant denomination — but have not yet received First Communion or Confirmation and would like to be fully initiated Catholics, please come! If you are in an invalid marriage and are interested in having your marriage blessed in the church, please come! Even if you are a fully initiated practicing Catholic interested in learning more about our faith, please come! All are welcome!
In addition, if you know of someone who fits into any of these categories, please invite them and let them know they are welcome. We are blessed to serve as the hands and feet of Christ — as His disciples today, it is our responsibility and our great privilege to bring people into the Church, to bring people to Christ.
As the OCIA process progresses through the year, those who discern that they do want to become fully initiated Catholics will go through rites of initiation, culminating in their reception of the sacraments at the Easter Vigil. But Fr. Kovash wants us all to know that there is absolutely no pressure to come into the Church if you simply attend the classes.
“Come and be open,” he says. “Have your heart open to hear what Christ has for you.”
If you do discern over the course of the classes that God is calling you to full communion with the Church, Fr. Kovash is here to walk that journey with you — to welcome you into full communion with the Church in joyful celebration of the fullness of this life as Christian disciples!