For adults, campus Catholics provide chance to switch faiths

by Kelsey Noonan | 10/18/04 5:00am

Although a change in religion may seem difficult late in life, the Aquinas Catholic House is striving to make it a little easier.

For the 13th year in a row, Aquinas House is offering the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to Dartmouth faculty and students. Overseen by College Chaplain Brendan Buckley, RCIA offers sacramental initiation to those who have never been baptized, to those baptized in another denomination or to Catholics who never received the catechism.

RCIA at Dartmouth College is a one-year process, molded to fit into the Dartmouth Plan schedule in three main stages. The first stage is a six-week period of inquiry in which interested students learn about Catholicism and decide if they want to commit to the rest of the year.

One female member of the Class of 2003, the daughter of a Protestant minister, decided not to continue at this point. But for many, Aquinas members said, this time allows for the correction of misconceptions about the Catholic Church.

"There is an unlearning process about what Catholicism is," said Buckley.

For those choosing to continue, Sunday classes about the various aspects of the Catholic faith follow the inquiry period. Under the oversight of three to four catechist teachers handpicked by Buckley, students learn about the Catholic creed, liturgy, sacraments, morality and prayer. During this time, students are paired with a Catholic sponsor who sits with them through Mass and meals to answer questions.

The culmination of the process is initiation to the church on Easter Vigil night. The ritual can be quite lengthy but includes "everything beautiful about the Roman Catholic tradition," according to Buckley.

Although the church is usually filled with students and community members for this annual event, it is not, Buckley said, for the faint of heart.

This year, one male sophomore is taking part in RCIA under the direction of senior catechist teachers Alexandra Do, Peter Sottile and Kelly Gloor.

"Teaching helps me grow in faith, and hopefully, those in the class grow as well," said Do.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!