In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus provides clear direction on how we should all bring people into the faith — “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Here at St. Rita, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and Catholicism 101 seek to do just that.
There are two tracks for those seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. Those who have been validly baptized through another Christian faith go through Catholicism 101 weekly on Wednesday evenings. Those who are receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion go through RCIA weekly on Sunday mornings.
Will Conley assists Fr. Michael Hartley with the process by teaching on Sundays, along with Mike Urban and Ryan Lillie, who teach on Wednesday evenings for Catholicism 101.
“We call this process ‘seeking full communion’ because Christ established one church, and we recognize all Christian faiths,” Will says. “There is truth in all religions, but the fullness is here in the Catholic Church.”
Both RCIA and Catholicism 101 use training materials from the Augustine Institute. How long it takes for those who have already been baptized to be ready for Confirmation and First Holy Communion depends on how much a person already knows about the Catholic faith. Catholicism 101 is offered all year. Those being baptized, called catechumens, start their studies in early September.
“We have more time with the RCIA program, so we can stop and spend more time on a topic if needed,” Will says.
Will also serves with prison ministry, and that’s how he started this work. He also runs a similar ministry inside Northwest Florida State Prison.
“I often hear from them after they have gotten out of prison, and they are doing well,” Will says. “Being part of a faith community really helps.”
Over his years of service with RCIA, Will has witnessed many people entering into the Catholic faith. He feels blessed to be part of that.
“It’s gratifying to see people come into the Church,” Will says. “Some are now serving in important roles at St. Rita’s, and it’s a good feeling.”
For Will, sharing the faith he so deeply loves is truly a joy. He would love to have more parishioners help guide people into the Catholic faith.
“You love talking about what you love,” Will says. “I love the Catholic faith, and that’s where I find enjoyment.”