R.C.I.A. Offers a Life of Faith

April 19, 2021

Thirteen members of the St. John’s University community made their commitment to a life of faith by receiving the Sacraments of Initiation at St. Thomas More Church on Sunday, April 11, an uplifting conclusion to almost a year of study and reflection through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.).

“It was a great joy to arrive at this long-awaited day,” noted Andrea Pinnavaia ’07C, ’08G, Campus Minister for Liturgy and Faith Formation, and Director of the student R.C.I.A. program. “Witnessing their commitment and persistence over these last months culminate in this deeply moving liturgy was a great blessing to me. Their happiness, and that of everyone in attendance, truly radiated the love of God,” she said.

Focusing on prayer, study, and reflection, the R.C.I.A. process welcomes non-Catholics, as well as Catholics who may not have received some of the Sacraments of Initiation (i.e., Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) as children. Participants received those sacraments at the student Mass, which was presided by Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, Diocese of Brooklyn, NY.

The R.C.I.A. process at St. John’s begins every September and continues through the Easter season. In collaboration with faculty from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and the Office of Campus Ministry, students and employees study all aspects of the Catholic faith at weekly gatherings.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their formation took place through Webex or Zoom meetings; they gathered in person only for the rituals of the R.C.I.A. process during Masses at St. Thomas More Church. “While the online format could be seen as a hindrance, their motivation to learn and create a community among themselves prevailed,” Ms. Pinnavaia stressed.

Receiving the sacraments were: students Leslie Acebo, Mia Barbato, Cameron Bieler, Alana Gates, Gracie Cho Iwersen, Adrien Lam, Zharia Lankford, Igor Maslov, Melissa Ramkissoon, Mariana Sottile, and Anna Wilga, as well as Caitlin Winkler ’15GEd, Education Instructor in The School of Education. The group was joined by Valerie Velez ’20TCB, who was part of the 2019–20 R.C.I.A. cohort, but unable to attend last year’s Mass due to the pandemic.  

“I graduated in 2020 during a truly turbulent and uncertain time,” Ms. Velez recalled. “I was also supposed to receive my sacraments just weeks after coming back from spring break. I often think about why I could not receive my sacraments a year ago, and the most obvious conclusion I come to is it was all in God’s plan. He needed me to grow, to reflect, to be patient, and to dig deeper into why I was doing this.”

Other students attending classes remotely were not able to attend due to travel restrictions and other limitations imposed by the pandemic. They entered the Church at Easter Vigil Masses the week prior at their home parishes through a collaboration between St. John’s University and the administrators of those churches. Those who went through the program together but were unable to attend had the opportunity to support their fellow community members via livestream at www.stjohns.edu/church.

“It was probably one of the most, if not the most, memorable day of my life,” noted Gracie, a Business major.

“Throughout the entire R.C.I.A. process, I have learned so much—not only about the Catholic faith but about myself. I have been waiting for this day for so long.  I am so excited that I am officially a Catholic and able to fully participate at Mass.”

For more information about joining the 2021–22 R.C.I.A. student program on the Queens, NY, campus, contact Andrea Pinnavaia at [email protected]

Interested employees should contact Sr. Patricia Evanick, D.C. ’97GEd, Campus Minister for Faith Formation and Leadership, at [email protected]

For the program offered on the Staten Island, NY, campus, contact Rev. Tri Minh Duong, C.M., Campus Minister for Vincentian Service and Faith Formation, at [email protected]