Flourishing RCIA program attributed to Eucharistic adoration at St. Charles Borromeo


PROVIDENCE — Welcoming even one soul into the Catholic Church is a cause for celebration, but this year, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Providence will have abundant reasons to celebrate the Easter season: 18 people will be baptized into the Faith and 50 others will become full members in the Body of Christ through the Sacraments of Initiation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. For a mid-sized parish of about 975 families located in the heart of the city, this is joyful news.
Father Jaime A. Garcia, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, credits this year’s tremendous numbers to only one thing: “The Holy Spirit is definitely at work in our parish.” He believes that through his parish’s perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and “the graces that flow from Eucharistic adoration,” many people are seeking full communion with the Church.
Their adoration setup is somewhat unique. From 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., the monstrance is displayed in the parking lot window, so worshippers can drive up to behold the Bread of Life when short on time. The overnight hours are held inside the chapel. Because of its location, those who drive or walk past the parish can see Jesus visibly each day. Father Garcia even remarked that he has seen police officers praying in the parking lot before or after a shift.
Family ties are strong in this heavily Hispanic community, and this Easter, many family members will receive their sacraments together. Father Garcia explained how it sometimes happens that a parent will sign their child up for religious education to prepare for a certain sacrament and realize that they have not received that or another sacrament. He further pointed out that in this group of catechumens and candidates, “some are new to the community, other have been in for years and say, ‘It’s my time.’”
Father Garcia also spoke of the parish’s “very alive liturgy.” St. Charles Borromeo hosts five Sunday Masses, including the Saturday Mass of anticipation.
“People feel touched by the Spirit and grow closer to God. We give them a lot of opportunities; they are hungry for God, want to know more about God,” he said.
In his 16 years as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, Father Garcia has learned the most important aspect: “Jesus is the pastor here; my job is to introduce them to Jesus.”
While visiting the religious education classrooms weekly, he says, “I see the hunger they have for God.” He eagerly anticipates Holy Week, having already ordered 6,000 palms, and expects a three-hour Easter Vigil.
Knowing he can’t take on all the work by himself, however, Father Garcia delegates tasks to others, attributing the numbers of people joining the Church to the “beautiful teamwork” at the parish. Parishioners like Juan and Harriet Troncoso, who have taught RCIA for nearly 14 years now, lead others in their faith journey.
Harriet serves as director of religious education; her husband helps in her ministry, as there is always paperwork to complete and classes to teach. They have been doing this work in the parish for 14 years now. Just like Father Garcia, Harriet takes no credit for the blessings this Easter Vigil will bring. She remarked,
“This is the work of the Holy Spirit, truly. These are the gifts, these are the fruits, and everyone that goes there is touched by God’s generosity,” she remarked.
Juan added: “All blessings are coming through Him and from the fact that we spend time with Him and He gives us a lot of wisdom, too, because we come into church, we don’t know anything. We’ve been learning as we go, but we get the strength from Him, and He’s been opening us more and more to His grace and that’s why we’ve been able to work as a team. And it’s been wonderful; we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
One family is currently going through the RCIA program together. The mother is a catechumen, the father a candidate and three teenagers received their confirmation earlier this year. Additionally, the parents will be married in the Church. Harriet joyfully remarked how, after Easter Vigil, “five in the same household will now be able to get up from the bench and be able to receive Communion. How great is that? And that is my reward.”
There is no secret to success in religious education. But if there were, Harriet, Juan and Father Garcia would say that it lies in hours spent before the Blessed Sacrament. From those moments come peace and guidance and a flow of ideas.
“But the most beautiful thing is, you get enlightened by the Holy Spirit to ask who should be involved in the ministry,” Harriet said. God even nudged Harriet to ask her own sister to help.
Just as God reveals to Harriet potential volunteers in adoration, so too do these men and women commit to a time of adoration on their own accord.
“All of us, every single teacher there, we go through the same thing that everybody goes through. … They all remain, overcoming every single obstacle. This is God’s grace, day in and day out,” Harriet said.
Some of these dedicated volunteers first went through the program themselves. Harriet spoke of several young ladies who received their sacraments through the religious education program and later asked if they could return to help educate other young people. Navelyn Carrillo, a recent college graduate, approached Harriet about volunteering and now teaches a classful of seven- and eight-year-old students.
Annie José, Lucia Soto and Marilyn Bardales “committed for several years after receiving sacraments with us,” Harriet reported. Luz Correa, who used to bring her younger siblings to class, now assists with the program. And when registration time comes around, all the teachers are onboard to help. “That’s a given.”