RCIA candidates discover treasures on their way into the Church
April 6, 2023
In discovering the Catholic faith, Mason Viergutz found truth, structure and freedom.
Dana Sughroue found beauty and a feeling of being welcomed.
Dominga Gomez felt more than welcomed. She found a new family.
All three are RCIA candidates who will fully enter the Church on April 8, at the Easter Vigil.
They will be among the 300 or so people in the archdiocese who will receive at their parishes the sacraments of initiation: baptism (for those who hadn’t already been baptized as Christians), Holy Communion and confirmation.
These converts to the faith are being received into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a process of discernment that began in earnest last fall with classes.
In reality that discernment often takes place over years, said Michael Emmerich, archdiocese director of liturgical formation. And the sacraments they are about to receive mark the beginning of a new life.
In the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, they will be anointed with a special oil called chrism, which is also used at ordinations and during the consecration of a new church.
“What all these have in common: they can’t be undone,” Emmerich said. “You can only be baptized once. A priest is a priest forever. Chrism is powerful stuff. What it touches, it changes permanently.”
FINISHING A JOURNEY
Dominga Gomez, of St. Patrick Parish in Fremont, was baptized as a baby in Guatemala but never received any further sacraments. She moved to the United States 16 years ago without her family and became interested in resuming her faith journey after meeting her husband, Francisco Solis, and his family.
Gomez and Solis raised their two daughters – Martina, 14, and Daisy, 12 – in the Catholic faith. Eventually the girls began urging their mother to take RCIA classes, make her first confession and Holy Communion and be confirmed.
During RCIA, some surprises happened.
“Something happened in that class,” Gomez said. “I really liked it. I liked being in that group. … Something changed in me. I felt different, you know?”
She said she began enjoying Mass more. The RCIA group, she said, became a second family for her.
Dana Sughroue, also of St. Patrick Parish in Fremont, was born into a Lutheran family and was baptized as a baby.
They attended church services until she was 5 or 6 but stopped when their church closed.
“We just never found another one,” Sughroue said, “so that’s where we stopped.”
She began going to Catholic Masses after she met her husband, Alex, and his family, which includes his brother, Father Adam Sughroue, a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln.
Alex’s family gave her a big dose of Catholicism, Sughroue said.
“I got a little more than the normal person would get,” she said with a laugh.
She said that when she first started going to Mass, “I was a little thrown off by all of the traditions and everything. They just seemed kind of robotic at first.
“But I did like the sense of community. I liked the way I felt after I left church. I never regretted going.
“But going through RCIA, learning about traditions and why they do things during the Mass … I’ve come around to like it,” Sughroe said, “that it’s actually really beautiful.”
Going through RCIA has made her feel welcomed at her parish, she said.
“It’s been really nice because now I know people in the church and I feel very comfortable there. It doesn’t feel like I’m a visitor anymore. I’m looking forward to now being a part of the congregation and just all of it coming together.”
ELDERLY ROLE MODELS
A few elders in Mason Viergutz’s life helped lead him into the Catholic faith.
Viergutz, of St. Anthony Parish in Columbus, was baptized in the Lutheran faith. But his father’s side of his family was Catholic, including a late grandmother and great-grandmother.
The great-grandmother not only cared about her faith, but she also wanted it to carry on in her family, he said.
“She was really religious,” said Viergutz, who is now 18 and studying building construction at Northeast Community College in Norfolk. “She would pray every night. She would go to confession. She’d get to Mass. She’d practice her faith every day.
“She would constantly tell my dad that we needed to go to church, but he’s just not religious like that. But my great-grandma was the reason why we were baptized. She made sure my parents got us baptized.”
The great-grandmother knew Viergutz was interested in the Catholic faith. Before she died in 2018, she made sure to hand down to him a special Rosary, made with the birthstones of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“That’s one thing I cherish,” he said.
His grandmother, who was also committed to her faith, also had a special Rosary to pass on to Viergutz. Each bead was made from flowers from his great-grandmother’s funeral.
“It came with a little pouch, and every time you’d open the pouch you could smell the flowers,” he said.
Viergutz started going to Mass early last year, soon after he began dating his girlfriend, Emily Schaad.
The Mass “just made me feel whole,” he said. “I found a place and a church that I liked, where I needed to be at that time and still need to be.”
He said he likes the order found in the Catholic Church. For example, the way he had to take classes and understand Holy Communion before he could receive the Blessed Sacrament.
Viergutz said he was excited for his first confession, which happened early in Holy Week.
“My girlfriend thought I’d be a little nervous for it, but it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to because it’s good to get the sins off my chest and feel free.”
He chose another elder for his RCIA sponsor, his girlfriend’s grandfather. “I brought him to tears when I asked him to be my sponsor and take me to these classes. I’m excited to see his look (at the Easter Vigil) and just how happy I’ll make him feel.”
Though he has been influenced by the Catholics in his life, Viergutz said, he’s entering the Catholic Church for his own reasons.
“Not growing up very religious helps me make this decision,” he said. “I feel like some kids now, their parents force them so much that it’s ‘Oh, I have to go to church now,’ ‘I have to wake up early,’ ‘I don’t want to do this.’
“But I get this opportunity to go to church, and it’s a decision I make. It’s not something I was forced to do as a child. It just makes me feel more wholesome knowing that I’m making the decision on my own.”