Providence College confirms 40 in largest RCIA class in school history

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PROVIDENCE — Providence College confirmed its largest-ever class of students in RCIA on Divine Mercy Sunday, welcoming 40 students into the Catholic Church.

The RCIA Mass was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans.

“In some fashion you have experienced the influence of God in your life on this campus,” Bishop Evans said in his homily. Most likely, he said, students had encountered God not like Moses did — in thunder and fire on Mt. Sinai — but like Elijah, as “gentle wind, a whisper, a nudge in the right direction.”

“You have found something — or, rather, someone — greater than yourselves,” Bishop Evans said.

Bishop Evans urged students to follow the advice of Colossians 3:2, which urges Christians to “Set their minds on things above, not on earthly things,” and Colossians 3:16 which says to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

In baptism, students become disciples in Christ. In confirmation, they become apostles, Bishop Evans said. “It is your mission because it is your identity as Christians,” he said.

Father Bonaventure Chapman, O.P., the assistant chaplain who runs the RCIA program, said the confirmations were the largest number in the history of the college. Last year, 34 students were confirmed. The year before that, there were 22. He said there appears to be a rising trend of students seeking the rites of initiation on campus. “It seems as it’s been going that way,” Father Chapman said.

He attributed the trend to the presence of friars on campus, the growing importance of Catholic identity, and the “snowball effect” of other students who were confirmed encouraging their peers to follow suit.

He noted this year was also exceptional because of the number of students who received other rites of initiation besides confirmation. Seven students were baptized, nine were converts to the Church and 22 students received first Communion.

“It’s fabulous,” said Sister Anne Frances Klein, O.P., a campus minister who works in the RCIA program. She said it was “beautiful” to see the grace the Lord is “showering” on students.

The RCIA Mass packed the St. Dominic Chapel for the 7 p.m. Mass, which was followed by a reception afterwards.

“This is a really special day,” said Katie Iwanowwicz, a sophomore from Albany, New York, who was confirmed. “I’m really happy to be here.”

“This is just a perfect day to practice my faith,” said Ross Burch, a senior from Woonsocket. He said he was moved to pursue confirmation in order to complete his Catholic education at Providence College. He noted in particular the role his theology classes played in his decision.

Sofia Rodriguez, a freshman from Puerto Rico, said the word “happiness” summed up her experience at being confirmed. “You don’t really know what’s waiting till you’re up there and you get the true blessing,” Rodriguez said. “It fills you in ways you didn’t know you needed to be filled.”

She said she felt “blessed and grateful” for the way she was confirmed.

At the reception, the members of the confirmation class received gift bags from the campus ministry staff, which included a rosary that was handmade by Sister Klein and a crucifix. Sister Klein said that she and Father Chapman prayed for each of the students on the rosary that was given to them.

A volunteer student minister, Sophie Palopoli, also helped shepherd her fellow students to confirmation. “This is kind of like the best day of my life — just to see how God has called them and how they have answered. It’s just absolutely beautiful, especially on Divine Mercy Sunday to see that mercy in action.”

Palopoli, who is a senior, said that the best gift the campus ministry staff could give the students is showing them how to love Jesus. “No matter how far they stray … He’ll keep calling them back if they love Jesus and I think they do,” Palopoli said.