Over the last several years, a handful of non-Catholic Saint Ignatius students have found themselves yearning for more—more participation in the Mass, more understanding of Theology, more of a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.
Thanks to the efforts of veteran Campus Minister Ed DeVenney, students seeking a deeper connection to Catholicism can explore and pursue full initiation into the Church through RCIA, or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
On Holy Saturday this year, at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Brendan Parish, four Saint Ignatius students received the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation and were thus fully welcomed into the Church.
Drake Larson '21, Rakyi Davis '22, Jayden Montanez '22 and Cole Ramirez '20 spent many months in prayer and conversation prior to their initiation. Their journey comes on the heels of several students throughout the past few years who have sought and received guidance in this discernment process.
“In the last three years, we put out an invitation and we created a more structured program where we actually do some formation throughout the year, meeting with them on a regular basis,” DeVenney says. “The Theology classes cover catechetical teachings and learning about the sacraments, and learning about the teachings of the Church. What we do in Campus Ministry is more faith formation, where we’re just talking about their spirituality and how they live out their faith.”
In some cases, students take the first step because of a relative or family friend who is Catholic. This year, DeVenney said, all four catechumens were inspired by people they got to know through the Saint Ignatius community.
DeVenney pays careful attention to each student who expresses an interest, making sure the decision to make these sacraments is one that is freely chosen by the student himself. In early conversations, they discuss Scripture and try to “break open the Word” and see connections to their own lives.
“The first stage of RCIA is the inquiry stage,” he says. “So basically in that stage we get to know each other. We spend a lot of time faith-sharing, talking about faith experiences.” They also cover the “basics” of the Catholic faith, including prayers and the meaning behind all the various movements of the Mass.
On the first Sunday of Advent they celebrate the Rite of Acceptance, whereby the students announce their intent to enter the Church. They continue until Lent, when they make the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist downtown.
“At that stage the Church calls them forward and says ‘Now we would like you to continue moving forward to the Sacraments of Initiation,’” DeVenney says. “They get to see all the other people in the diocese that are participating in this as well, so they realize at that moment that they’re part of something bigger—that they’re part of the Church.”
Throughout Lent, the students participate in the three scrutinies, which DeVenney says is “kind of a blessing that purifies them.” At the Easter Vigil, they then receive the sacraments that they have spent months preparing for, with a sponsor by their side.
“It’s considered to be one of the holiest nights of the year,” DeVenney says. “So we’re celebrating that, the beautiful moment of these young men coming into the Church being baptized. It really is a beautiful thing—it’s very sacred.”
For the young men who go through RCIA, DeVenney says they all begin with some sense of God, but it’s forming a relationship with Jesus that takes time, patience and prayer. As one phase of their preparation, each catechumen prepares a “faith statement,” which includes how they plan to make their faith a way of life, not just a routine.
“I ask them, ‘How has this experience changed their faith? What have they learned?’ And to articulate how do they see Jesus working in their lives.” DeVenney says. “And then to really think about the sacraments, what difference will the sacraments make in their life. How will that inform their faith and how will they practice it?
The preparation also involves practical matters—for example, which parish does each student plan to attend for Mass. Saint Ignatius might be the avenue through which their faith was sparked, but they must find a parish family to join.
In all this process, DeVenney says the students really grow to articulate how their eyes are opened to God and His presence in their lives.
At the final all-school Mass of the year in early May, the four initiates were recognized in front of the entire student body for their living example of faith. Their journey is just one example of how Saint Ignatius High School forms young men who grow to know, love and serve Jesus Christ.