By Violeta Rocha
COPPELL — Juan Carlos Hernández and his wife Maribel Rosero eagerly awaited Holy Saturday this year like no other.
It was the couple’s daughters, Kerly, 14, and Katherin, 12, who helped their parents embark on a spiritual transformation that culminated on the Easter Vigil, when the couple received the Sacraments of Initiation and joined the Catholic faith.
Hernández and Rosero were among the 27 catechumens of St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell who received the sacraments of baptism, communion and confirmation. The group had been preparing in Spanish for more than six months as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults or RCIA.
Across the Diocese of Dallas, 1,196 faithful were fully initiated into the Catholic Church while 1,399 completed their sacraments of initiation and 391 received full communion.
“It is a great joy to see the conversion of the catechumens when they have a personal encounter with the Lord,” said Mary Zavala, who has led RICA for six years in St. Ann’s. “I see great fruits because after receiving their sacraments many begin to serve in different ministries and are ready to be part of the mission.”
The Hernández-Rosero family, natives of Ecuador in South America, arrived in Dallas five years ago and although they lacked formation in the Catholic faith, the family began attending Mass at St. Ann’s a couple of years after their arrival.
“My daughters began to ask questions about the faith that neither my wife nor I knew how to answer,” said Hernández, who was raised as an Evangelical Christian.
“I was away from the Catholic Church for a long time but now knowing the faith, accompanied by my daughters and my husband, is a very beautiful experience,” said Maribel, who only received the Sacrament of Baptism in her childhood.
Hernández and Rosero sought to satisfy the doubts of their daughters by registering the girls in the RICA program. That decision only fueled more the desire of the sisters to motivate the couple to complete together the process of joining the Catholic Church.
“The four of us are walking, helping each other and explaining our questions together,” said Kerly, who received the Sacraments of Initiation with her sister in May.
In the Catholic Church if children reach the age of 7 without having received the Sacrament of Baptism, to do so they must prepare through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA.
“It’s the same process that adults follow but only adapted to specific ages,” Zavala said.
A few weeks prior to the Easter Vigil, the family spoke with Revista Católica about their experience.
Katherin Hernández was excited about the fruits of her preparation.
“I’m learning a lot in my classes,” she said. “I like the activities because they teach us about God in a fun way that makes it easier for understand.”
Her sister Kerly felt the same way. “We’re going to feel closer to God and every time we’re going to learn more and more about Him.”
For Maribel the best thing has been to live this experience together.
“We have strengthened our faith as a family,” she said.
The mother used the example of going together to Mass to describe how each of them discovered the meaning of the rite for Catholics.
“At Mass, we understand more things because of what has been explained to us in RCIA. We feel very excited because we already know the meaning of many things.”
Katherine Dorado, a parishioner of St. Augustine parish in Pleasant Grove, also received the Sacraments of Initiation at the upcoming Easter Vigil.
It was her boyfriend, Oscar Valtierra, who got her close to the Catholic Church. She credits RCIA for having “changed her life”.
“You begin to feel a closeness to God that you did not feel before,” said the 24-year-old. “Now I pray. I go to Mass not only on Sundays, I want to learn more and enjoy the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I have the great desire to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.”
A non-stop journey
Father Henry Erazo, parochial vicar of St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano, said the purpose of RCIA is “to accompany and prepare adults who wish to become disciples of Jesus Christ in the Roman Catholic Church.”
He added that through the rite “they are provided with spiritual help for their preparation and for the fruitful reception of the Sacraments at the right moment.”
To be ready for that moment, Juan Carlos Hernández made a commitment to arrive every Wednesday on time to his class at St. Ann’s. He had to miss 30 minutes of work in order to be punctual in the preparation that he started with his wife and daughters in August 2018.
“The center and focus of RCIA is to achieve the conversion,” stressed Father Erazo. “People turn to God for the first time, but that movement to turn to God continues after their ‘initiation.’”
Witnessing what the Hernández-Rosero family has experienced as part of RCIA, Mary Zavala sees a ‘promising sign’ not only for them but for the entire Catholic Church.
“I like to see how the whole family is going through this process,” she said. “The joy of the girls is very evident and I think that it will help them to be good disciples of their faith and to reach more and more people to join our Church.”
Violeta Rocha is a freelance writer for Revista Católica Dallas and a frequent contributor to The Texas Catholic.