2/9/2012 9:30:00 AM JOINING THE CHURCH Retiree completes RCIA from Florida
Technology boosts Diocese
Technology is a boon to the Church all over the Albany Diocese:
n At often-crowded St. Joseph's parish in Worcester, a closed-circuit television system airs Sunday Mass in the church's social hall for the overflow of Mass-goers.
Extra ushers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist serve worshipers in the social hall, which is about 30 feet from the church. As volunteers set up the hall for other events, they can see and hear the Mass, as well.
Parents can also take rowdy toddlers into the hall - but it's more a "training center" for children than a cry room, said Rev. Ronald Green, MM, administrator of St. Joseph's: "They're learning church decorum in the social hall."
Parents have told Father Green that their children are staying put in the pews more often, since they now know that retreating to the social hall still means participating in Mass.
The videocamera is on loan from a parishioner. Last fall, volunteers installed the camera, a cable to the hall and a television for viewing the liturgy. Close to 50 people watched Christmas Eve Mass from the room when the church filled up. The parish also recorded its Christmas cantata for the first time.
"There are deficits [to] not being physically in contact with the full community," Father Green said of Mass-goers in the hall, "but for now, they do have the contact before and after Mass."
As there are no plans to expand the church, he added, "unless I hit it big tomorrow night in the lottery, this is going to have to be the solution."
n The diocesan Vocations Office recently began using an internet service called Skype to videoconference with Catholics who live far from Albany. In January, parishioners from Hancock and the Ilion/ Frankfort area logged on for the first time to "attend" a meeting with parishioners from the Albany area.
"It was like they were sitting right there," said Sister Rosemary Cuneo, CR, diocesan co-director for vocations.
Despite some glitches - in that meeting, the video feature didn't work and there were sound problems - the internet tool may revive vocations committees that fell apart after parishes closed and merged during "Called to be Church" pastoral planning.
"We're trying to build up momentum again," Sister Rosemary said. Skype "enables us to reach people in their homes that wanted to be involved, but could never be involved before. It was a very good first try. The more people that can jump on and contribute, the richer the conversation will be."
Sister Rosemary said she may wear a microphone or pass one around next time: "Who knows? We may get some real tech-y people who want to help."
(To join in the next meeting - Feb. 16, 6 p.m. - search for Sister Rosemary on www.skype.com under the username rcdavocations.)
St. Joseph's parish in Worcester also just held a "biblically-based" financial planning lecture by parishioners who took a 13-week course at a local Protestant church, learning how to pay down debt and use resources in a scripturally-sound way. "It's [about] living modestly, using your finances in such a way that you're helping other people," explained Rev. Ronald Green, MM, administrator of St. Joseph's. Parishioners are now thinking of bringing the full course to the parish.
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."