PROVIDENCE — On Sunday, May 1, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin administered the sacraments of initiation to a series of students in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at Providence College.
On the sunny spring morning on the Third Sunday after Easter, students gathered with their family, friends, sponsors and faculty in front of St. Dominic’s chapel in the Upper Campus of Providence College. Bishop Tobin was the principal celebrant for the 11:00 a.m. Mass. After the entrance procession, Bishop Tobin was greeted by Father Justin Bolger, O.P., chaplain of Providence College.
“We thank you for this beautiful and joyous day,” said Father Bolger. “We thank you for shepherding us and receiving our students into the Church, confirming them in the Holy Spirit,” he continued.
“It’s always a joy to be here on the campus of Providence College,” Bishop Tobin responded, “and especially on an occasion like this, as we celebrate the sacraments of initiation for a number of students who are before us today. We celebrate their faith, an opportunity for all of us to renew our faith in the Risen Christ.”
The theme of deepening one’s faith in the risen Christ was repeated in Bishop Tobin’s homily.
“We rejoice in the gift of faith you share with us,” said Bishop Tobin. “You come to be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist at a very special time, of course, in the life of our Church as we continue to celebrate the Easter Season. We continue to rejoice in, to proclaim, to talk about, to sing about the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, because that’s the event that’s the heart and the soul of the Christian faith. It’s the foundation of everything we do as Catholics,” he said. Bishop Tobin continued, “How do we share in the life of Christ? How do we experience Jesus? What motivates us to share the good news with others? Well, that’s what our faith is all about. Our faith is a bridge. Our faith is the bridge between ourselves and the risen Christ.”
He said that everything we do as Catholics, everything we do as Christians, has that as its ultimate purpose.
The bishop noted how the life of faith expresses itself in prayer when we receive the sacraments, obey the teachings of Jesus, participate in the life of the Church and take part in almsgiving, all of which help to bring about or deepen an encounter with Jesus.
Bishop Tobin also spoke about the important role of the saints, particularly the Virgin Mary, in serving as role models for living out the life of faith.
“Everything that we do in our faith is a way of staying connected to Jesus, being close to Jesus, and becoming more like Jesus,” he said.
One of the students participating in the Mass received both the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, while 11 were confirmed, including three who were converts to Catholicism.
Siavash Mirazedeh, who took on the Confirmation name of Francisco Marto, was a catechumen baptized during the day’s celebrations. Currently a junior majoring in political science, Mirazedeh stated that his mother was Catholic and his father was Muslim, but he himself was not raised with any religious affiliation. He said that what inspired him to embrace the Catholic faith was the Church’s role in helping him through various struggles in his life, and the kind attitude of many within the Church: “The Church helped me during a period of difficulty I was going through, and there was a lot of goodwill from people within the Church.”
Christian Peña, a theology major at Providence College, received the sacrament of Confirmation and took on the Confirmation name of Michael. Raised as a devout Evangelical Protestant, during his time in college Peña began to doubt his faith. As he began to examine apologetical works online, he stumbled upon the works of the Catholic apologist Trent Horn. “He just made a phenomenal case,” Peña said, “and one thing led to another, and then I decided I’m going to give the faith a chance.”
Another RCIA candidate, Matthew Shaw, also spoke of his spiritual journey. Shaw, who is currently a graduate student majoring in history, was born and raised as a Protestant. Shaw claims that as a child his family frequently changed churches, identifying variously as members of Presbyterianism, the Church of Christ, Wesleyanism and Methodism. He was first exposed to Catholicism during undergraduate studies at Ohio Dominican University, noting how he was particularly drawn by the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas.
“I started reading in a lot of my political science classes Thomas Aquinas’s ‘Summa Theologica,’” Shaw said.
“A lot of the questions I had always had on the Protestant side of my faith I found that Thomas was able to answer, as well as to make sense of things that were a little bit more complicated than I thought.”
Shaw’s studies at a Catholic university caused him to internalize many Catholic beliefs, which helped him deal with the emotional and spiritual struggles associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. His journey to the Church was intensified during Lent of 2021, when he began to read Catholic devotional works and attend Mass at a local Catholic Church. This allowed him to see “what the faith was in action instead of just at the academic level,” which in turn caused him to “fall more and more in love with it,” he said.
“It’s always a joyful and inspiring moment to see the young people celebrating their faith, celebrating the sacraments,” Bishop Tobin said in comments after Mass. “It’s a beautiful moment for them, for the college community, and for me as well.”
“It encourages the rest of us in our faith, too,” the bishop went on to say.
The liturgical celebrations were followed by a reception for those in attendance in the hall beneath St. Dominic’s Chapel.
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