Future Catholic awaits initiation after pandemic disrupts plans

Ned Carr signs the Book of the Elect. (Credit: Martina Tiu)

By Kelly Marsicano
Associate Publisher

While many Catholics are missing the community of their parish during the coronavirus pandemic, others are still waiting to become part of that community.

Edward Carr, who goes by Ned, is one of those people. He was expecting to be fully initiated into the Church during the Easter Vigil along with about 350 other catechumens throughout the archdiocese. However, the suspension of public Masses put that plan temporarily on hold.

“I was disappointed, but I don’t think there was really any choice,” Carr said. “I think this is just another challenge in the journey that we’re all going through together. When we come out of this crisis, it’s going to be that much better.”

Carr explained that his future sister- and brother-in-law introduced him to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Ann Parish in Hoboken. “I’m getting married this October. For my future wife, I thought it would be a nice thing to do to join the Catholic Church,” he said.

Carr added that he was raised with Christian values, but didn’t have any type of organized religion growing up. “Learning more about the faith has given me a great understanding of what it is and what I have to look forward to. It’s gotten me closer to God,” he stated. “From my experience so far, (the best part) is the community. The relationships I’ve made have been awesome.”

That sense of community was reinforced for Carr during the Rite of Election on March 1 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. During the ceremony, catechumens, alongside their sponsors, publicly declared their desire to receive the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist and confirmation.

“That was my first time going to the cathedral. The building itself was incredible. That was the first time I heard Cardinal (Joseph) Tobin speak in person. It was a really cool experience,” he recalled. “I thought the fact that it was in multiple languages was really nice. You have this really diverse community, but we’re all unified by the faith.”

While Carr waits patiently to join the Church, he remains in contact with his catechists and is continuing his studies. “The RCIA team at St. Ann Church has done a really good job of keeping the group together. We have an online meeting every Sunday and then we watch Mass together,” explained Carr, who is the only catechumen in their group. The others are candidates, which means they were previously baptized but didn’t receive full initiation into the Church. “We’re still doing the meetings and having the catechesis. It’s not the same as doing it in person, but it feels like we haven’t missed a beat.”

“Over the past six weeks, the program has evolved into a community of young adult believers,” said Cheryl James, the director of RCIA at St. Ann’s. “These meetings provide a platform for our candidates to discuss their budding faith and have become a safe haven for them to continue to function normally in a very uncertain world. Several times our candidates expressed their appreciation by thanking us for providing them with an opportunity to meet and express their feelings and ask questions. In turn, we listen and encourage them to trust in God.”

When public worship resumes, celebrations of full initiation for catechumens, as well as different rituals to complete the initiation of candidates, will take place at their respective parishes.

“It’s all part of God’s plan, and we need to accept it and hope and pray for the best,” Carr reflected.