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CUA’s Environment Is Conducive to Conversions

Jill Mignacca Ramsey with Father Koziol and Father O’Brien (left)and Nicholas Valentino with his roommate, Robert Poppleton (right).Jill Mignacca Ramsey moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005 and applied to work for local universities that offered tuition benefits to employees. She got a job at CUA’s Columbus School of Law and several weeks later her path in life changed.

Invited on a tour of the campus by Rev. Raymond O’Brien, a professor at the law school, Ramsey found herself asking him about the Church and about the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

Ramsey had grown up a member of the United Church of Christ in Auburn, Kan. Her father was Catholic, but the religion was never really talked about. Her discussions with Father O’Brien were the first conversations she had ever had with a priest.

Father O’Brien put Ramsey in touch with Rev. John Koziol, O.F.M. Conv., CUA’s associate campus minister for religious education.

“I met with Father John and he was so laid-back,” Ramsey says. “He was so no-pressure. I didn’t feel like I was being recruited. I knew this was something I wanted to do.”

Ramsey told her husband she was going to attend RCIA and he said he wanted to come with her. She was surprised because, as far as she knew, he was happy being Methodist.

Ramsey says she started RCIA only knowing that the Catholic faith was very different from what she grew up with. She was “blown away” by the support offered by Catholic University’s RCIA team, a group of about a dozen students, both undergraduate and graduate. “They answer your questions and if they can’t, they find someone who can,” she says.

Ramsey, who is now a part-time CUA undergraduate studying theology, was one of a dozen people who completed the rite of initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Vincent de Paul Chapel last year. This year, nine others are going through the same process.

RCIA is for non-Catholic Christians, non-Christians and non-baptized Catholics wishing to become fully initiated into the Church. From September to Easter, it meets on campus twice a week — on Thursday to study catechesis and on Sunday to study that week’s Scripture readings. Instead of using a lecture format, CUA’s process is taught in a seminar style.

“What makes RCIA wonderful is the intense community experience,” Father Koziol said. “Journeying together all those months — there’s a bonding experience, a sense of belonging.”

The priest says he thinks the environment at CUA promotes interest in the Church. Sometimes the requirement that undergrads take religion classes sparks an interest and sometimes devout roommates have an influence.

The latter was the case for sophomore Nicholas Valentino, an architecture major from Sykesville, Md. Valentino grew up in the Baptist Church but his family stopped going to church when he was about 12. His freshman roommate was considering a vocation to the priesthood and another friend sang in the choir. Valentino attended Mass on campus to support both of them.

“The people around me definitely shaped my faith,” he says.

Now the new convert is taking his faith home with him. His father, who was raised Catholic, is going to Mass with him when they’re together.

Initially, Valentino was not interested in attending a university with a Catholic name, but the campus and the friendliness of the people in the architecture and planning school sold the university for him. Now he wonders if there wasn’t a larger plan for him to attend CUA.

“It was like I was meant to do all this, like God put me here,” Valentino says. — M.F.M.

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Revised: March 2007

All contents copyright © 2007.
The Catholic University of America,
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