Brian Bailey and his confirmation sponsor at St. Michael the Archangel parish in Troy live more than 1,000 miles apart.

When Mr. Bailey retired from his position as maintenance director at St. Michael's, he'd already begun the process of converting to Catholicism. When his wife, Mary, also retired last fall, the pair decided to become "snowbirds," staying at their vacation home in Florida until May.

But Mr. Bailey still plans to be confirmed next year. To continue toward that goal through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, he speaks regularly with his sponsor, Bill Campbell, and with St. Michael's parish life director and RCIA coordinator via email.

The original plan was to video conference through Skype, but Mr. Bailey hasn't hooked up his webcam yet.

"It's not that I didn't want to do it," he explained. "I had a hard time setting it up."

Although Mr. Bailey misses out on the parish's adult faith formation sessions, email is a good stand-in for now. He and his sponsor read the same Scripture-based guidebook, RCIA booklets and Catholic Update newsletters. Mr. and Mrs. Bailey also read the Gospel together and practice the Examen, an Ignatian technique of prayerful reflection.

"The only thing I do miss is probably the dismissal," Mr. Bailey said, referring to the practice of dismissing RCIA candidates for a period of time during Mass so they can receive religious education. "But [my wife] is very helpful in that way. It helps to talk to someone and I feel it made us a little closer."

Mr. Bailey was raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, but wasn't active. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on occasion, but said he lacked a solid understanding of Christianity.

"I just didn't make the time to do it," he said. "I had a young family I was raising. I wasn't a very good Protestant, but I want to be a better Catholic."

Now 69, Mr. Bailey worked as a quality control director at a drug company in Rensselaer for more than 40 years before retiring seven years ago. He then took on the part-time position at St. Michael's, cleaning, painting and doing minor electrical work.

"That's when I decided I wanted to be a Catholic," he recalled. "I realized how caring people were [at St. Michael's] and what a nice community it was, and how I was lacking something like that in my life. I felt that I wanted to be a part of something - and I wanted to be a part of it with my wife."

He grew close to parish life director Sister Kate Arseneau, CSJ, but said she never pressured him to convert. Sister Kate said she was blindsided when he announced his intention to join the Church: "I almost fell off my seat."

Now, Mr. Bailey emails Mr. Campbell with questions about the faith. Mr. Campbell said his student "is unbelievably committed to this process."

Thanks to Mr. Bailey's wife, a Catholic, and his brother-in-law, a deacon at St. Michael's, "he's got a lot of help," Mr. Campbell added. "It's a little different; but, thanks to the technology today, we can keep in touch regularly."

Sister Kate said the flexibility of the parish's RCIA process lends itself to Mr. Bailey's unorthodox faith formation. RCIA coordinator Sister Pat Conron, CSJ, the 14-member RCIA core team and 30 catechists cater the process to each adult. Candidates can begin RCIA at any point during the liturgical year and take as much time as needed.

"We treat each candidate as an individual," Mr. Campbell said.

In Florida, the Baileys attend a parish that welcomes tens of thousands of people. Mass is projected on screens so that everyone can see the priest.

"I'll be glad to get back to St. Michael's," Mr. Bailey said. The Florida parish "just doesn't have the intimacy that St. Michael's does. We go to church in our golf cart to find a place to park."

Mr. Bailey also looks forward to receiving communion when he completes the RCIA process.

"I feel very much distant because I can't go up and receive the Eucharist," he said. "I'll be really happy when I can go up and partake."

In the meantime, he plans to welcome Sisters Kate and Pat for a Florida visit. "I can't wait for Sister Kate to see [the golf cart]," he remarked. "She's gonna' flip out."