RCIA is her RSVP

By Jaye Alderson | For The Compass | March 19, 2014

Mayo helps welcome people to Catholic faith through Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]OSHKOSH — As Easter approaches, Judy Mayo is wrapping up her 19th year of leading the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish. It has been a ministry of faith that has been a good fit for Mayo in many ways.

Judy Mayo (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)
Judy Mayo (Jeannette Merten | For The Compass)

“When I first started, they needed someone to present classes,” Mayo says. “I teach religion classes at Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh and I have a master’s degree in counseling, so it’s kind of an easy fit for me.”

RCIA is for adult men and women who wish to become members of the Catholic Church. Formation studies include Scripture; teaching what Catholics believe; how they worship; prayer; and how Catholics live their lives. Program participants include unbaptized people, those baptized in another faith tradition and often other Catholics who left the church or who wish to learn more about it.

Although the process is ongoing, the RCIA at St. Raphael typically starts in the fall and ends at Easter. Participants meet each Monday evening through Holy Week.

“They come into the church at Easter,” Mayo says. “On Holy Saturday, we start the day with a retreat. Then we have a rehearsal around noon, and they come into the church during the vigil.” Between her adult program and children’s program, she has 18 participants this year.

She suggests that the participants come back the following year and work with the RCIA team, and many of them do, she says.

Mayo grew up in Two Rivers with her parents, Floyd and Ruth Mueller. She attended Roncalli High School and Holy Redeemer Parish. “My father was Lutheran,” Mayo says. “He attended Mass with my mom, but he never became Catholic. I knew the connection between the two faith traditions.”

She says her interest in giving back to the church came through her mother’s example. “I experienced it very early on,” Mayo says. “I witnessed what she did. She was always very involved in the parish. I sang in the choir.”

When she moved to attend the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, she wasn’t quite sure in which direction she wanted to go. She always liked working with younger people, so education was a natural draw for her.

Mayo has taught at Lourdes for more than 25 years, including a brief stint at St. Pius X in Appleton. “I’ve never even looked at public schools,” she says. “There’s a faith aspect in the parochial schools and all the individual attention you can give the students. I teach eighth grade and sometimes kids are a little afraid of religion. It’s nice when they start opening up.”

She enjoys the aspect in both the school setting and the RCIA setting when she can see that her students are “getting it.”

“It’s fun to watch people change,” she says. “When they first come in, some are not quite sure if this is what they really want. All of a sudden, a light comes on, everything changes for them and they get it. That’s really fun. They come in as strangers, and they leave as friends.”

That community aspect is a major component of the RCIA, Mayo says. It provides shared spiritual growth and a way to explore the Catholic Christian tradition for all involved.

“It brings people into the church who are questioning their faith and where they want to go,” she says. “It allows time to get together with other Catholics and for us to share our faith with them. We used to do the initiation process individually, and we still can, but with the group approach, once they’re into the church, they already know people who are sitting in the pews. They get used to the relationships that develop during the program.”

Mayo says participation in the RCIA ensures that when new members come into the church, they will have the right information and the support system in place to make the transition a success.

“The team members work very hard to make these candidates coming into the church really feel welcome,” she says. “A lot of times things are shared that maybe they wouldn’t share with someone else. That community aspect is a really important part of this program. They develop relationships that will last for years. They go far beyond those Monday nights.”

Mayo says the RCIA is an important ministry for the church and for people who are discerning what they want to do with their lives.

“Many people who already are Catholic are coming to the meetings just for the education part of it,” she says. “I think as people read more and look into things, their attitudes are changing. Let’s challenge what has always been and find new ways to do things. I think Pope Francis has opened a lot of people’s eyes.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Judy Mayo

Parish: St. Raphael the Archangel, Oshkosh

Age: 62

Favorite saint: Blessed Mother Teresa

Words to live by: “No man is an island. We have to support each other.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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