Catholics say joining the church worth the long process

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Cathy Gush decided to officially join St. Michael's Catholic Church after attending Mass there for seven years.

"It was one of the best things I ever did," she said.

She began the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program in 1999 and completed the process three years later. Gush annulled her first marriage to a non-Catholic man, then took classes through St. Michael's to learn the rituals and traditions of the church.

"(I got a) better understanding of myself, as well as a deeper belief in Christ and better understanding of why I chose the Catholic Church," she said.

The Rev. Jim Fox of St. Mich--ael's said that's what the initiation process is all about. He said he hopes those who go through RCIA come away with a deeper relationship with God and stronger faith.

"It's a time to find out where you stand with God," Fox said.

A large part of the instruction explains the church's traditions and memorials.

"Ritual is a very important part of living the Christian faith," Fox said.

At the program's conclusion, Gush was baptized, confirmed, experienced her first communion and had her current marriage to a Catholic man blessed, all in the same Mass.

Fox said this ceremony is done on Easter Sunday, with members of the church as witnesses.

This year, St. Michael's has four churchgoers in the RCIA program. Family or friends refer most to the church. Others in the program just seem to have a calling to the church, Fox said.

"Everyone has their own unique reason they're here," he said.

Usually, members can complete the program in one year, he said.

Although it took Gush three years, she said she's glad she made the step to join the church. She said she sees the Catholic Church as a safe place and calls it home. She wanted to share the experience she had going through initiation with others, so she is a sponsor and teacher for incoming Catholics.

"I wanted to teach the class because it helps me, too," Gush said. "I get a better understanding every time I teach it."

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