March 17, 2010 // Local

Schlatterbeck humbly guides RCIA process at St. Pius X

Diane Schlatterbeck, director of Christian Initiation at St. Pius X in Granger, carries the Lectionary for Mass, as the elect and candidates for full communion follow her to break open the Liturgy of the Word.

By Karen Clifford

“Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow me
And I will give you rest.”
— Refrain from “Be Not Afraid,” by Bob Dufford

As Diane Schlatterbeck, the director of Christian Initiation at St. Pius X, carries the Lectionary for Mass, the congregation sings the refrain from “Be Not Afraid.” It is currently Lent, and the Elect and Candidates for full communion follow Schlatterbeck to break open the Word with a sense of joyful anticipation as the Easter triduum approaches.

Schlatterbeck has helped lead over 200 people on their spiritual journey in the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) since she became director in July of 2003. Among Schlatterbeck’s numerous responsibilities are interviewing those interested in becoming Catholic, recruiting and training sponsors, coordinating rites with Jeremy Hoy, director of liturgy and music, planning retreats, interfacing with the diocesan Office of Worship, and developing a yearly budget for the Christian initiation group at the parish level.

Msgr. William Schooler, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, reflects that all of these tasks are completed with the professionalism and compassion Schlatterbeck is known for.

“Diane understands the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and sees her role as facilitating the conversion process which Christ initiates and continues to call people. She is very organized and sensitive to where people are coming from, without sacrificing the vision of the Church or our fundamental truths. She is not afraid to confront, in a very gentle and loving way, those who are not faithful to the process and challenges them to be honest about the depth of their commitment to the Church.”

He adds, “She has an incredible knack for matching catechumens or candidates for full communion with good sponsors. Diane acts as a humble servant in her role.”

People come to learn about Catholicism from different walks in life, Schlatterbeck notes. It may be a person who is married to a Catholic, someone with a friend who is Catholic, or from another Christian tradition seeking to find the fullness of the faith through the Catholic Church.

Schlatterbeck’s ability to ease the fears of those going through the process is testified to by Tonya O’Dell, who was baptized and confirmed at the 2008 Easter Vigil.

“I remember a conversation I had with her about feeling very uneasy about the whole church knowing that I had never been baptized. I felt ashamed of this and embarrassed that I had not been given any formal religion to follow as a child. Diane was very supportive and explained to me how special it would be to be baptized as an adult. She made me see that as an adult I was making a conscious decision for Baptism and become Catholic and that was a very courageous step,” says O’Dell.

Misconceptions about the RCIA process often appear. John Kampars, another St. Pius X parishioner who went through RCIA, recalls being surprised by the content of the material presented.

“I began the RCIA process thinking it was going to be an academic experience. I’m not sure where this impression came from but it turned out to be the furthest thing from reality. Although our weekly gatherings were filled with readings, doctrine and history, it was the caring, faith sharing and love shown by the team members and pastors that I think created the strong spiritual atmosphere that strengthened my own personal faith journey.”

Schlatterbeck smiles when asked about misconceptions of RCIA. “RCIA is not a program but a process. People will come in at various levels of spiritual maturity. It’s not like joining a club; you have to journey through the process until you feel and understand what you are getting involved with. The hope is to get them involved through inquiry, get them familiar with our community and get them started on this process of learning what the faith community is about and learning about who Jesus is in their life.”

For the sponsors and RCIA team, seeing the catechumens/elect and candidates through the different rites throughout the year provides a powerful spiritual connection. The RCIA day-long retreat before Lent cements this connection. “Once we have retreat, it is a powerful way to help them connect with each other, the team and the community. As they come into Holy Week they really have a true sense of what the Easter triduum is about,” Schlatterbeck says.
The Easter Vigil is a very powerful experience for all in attendance. “For the elect, there is an understanding that the Easter Vigil is really geared for those being baptized. For the candidates for full communion, it is renewing their baptismal promises and their profession of faith in the midst of the whole community,” she emphasizes.

The time following the Easter Vigil is crucial for the continuation of the faith. The period known as mystagogia, helps those who have completed the sacraments of initiation understand what they received at the Easter Vigil and stay connected with the church. Additionally, Schlatterbeck charges sponsors with the task of encouraging them to join parish ministries and stay active in the Catholic Church.

“We tell them it’s not finished at Easter, it’s just the beginning!”

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