As the Holy Season of Lent progresses each year, we welcome new Catholics to the Body of Christ. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a journey, a true act of accompaniment by the local parish to catechumens (those who need to receive all three of the sacraments of initiation — Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion) and candidates (who were baptized, as a Catholic or in another ecclesial communion and need to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist).
This journey — in which women and men who have felt the call of the Lord in their hearts to come and follow the Way of the Lord Jesus Christ by becoming fully initiated into the Church — occurs during the season of Lent.
First, they attend the Rite of Election. The Church, in the person of the Bishop or his auxiliary bishops, accepts and welcomes candidates and catechumens. Throughout the Sundays of Lent, in their parishes, they will undergo the scrutinies and become more intimately connected to the Church by presenting the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer of exorcism, and the Creed. All of this culminates at the Easter Vigil when these women and men receive or complete the Sacraments of Initiation in their parishes.
In our diocese, we are blessed to have several people join the RCIA programs — many of them from the Asian communities, who suffered a great deal to immigrate to the U.S. and have made a beautiful life in our city. These are the same men and women whose children and grandchildren help make up the rich tapestry of faith in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
It is painful to see this growing rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans in our city. This month alone has seen four Asians attacked, including a 71-year-old woman punched in the face on a subway platform in Midtown Manhattan and a 52-year-old woman assaulted outside a bakery in Flushing.
What’s behind all these attacks?
Some argue that it is growing xenophobia, perhaps out of anger and frustration caused by people who are upset that the COVID-19 pandemic arose out of China. Maybe it is caused by the lack of respect that seems to be engendered in our rapidly growing, socially-isolated world. Regardless, these attacks have to stop, and the Church has an important role in this.
Last year, our Bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, spoke to the Chinese people of Brooklyn and Queens, demonstrating his support and the love and support of the entire People of God here in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Now, as parishes, parishioners, and pastors, we are called to renew once again our love, respect, and welcome to our friends, families, neighbors, and fellow parishioners who are of Asian descent. They are New Yorkers, and many are Roman Catholics, like us.
The key is to see every human being, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, abilities or disabilities, and economic situation, as possessing an innate human dignity. We are all made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. Our Savior, Jesus the Christ, opened his arms wide on his Holy Cross to welcome, redeem, and save all of humanity.
Can we see the image and likeness of Christ in all of our neighbors? Can our voices be heard in defense of our brothers and sisters? This Lent, as we welcome new members to the Church, may we stop and see how wonderfully, beautifully diverse is the Body of Christ.