2016 RCIA National Conference, Fr Chiera delves into multidimensional aspects of journey to Christ
Vicar General of Bunbury Diocese, Fr Tony Chiera, recently delivered a captivating keynote presentation at the 2016 RCIA Conference, held in Perth from 6 to 8 October. Photo: Marco Ceccarelli
By Marco Ceccarelli
It was a captivating and informative keynote presentation by Bunbury Diocese Vicar General, Father Tony Chiera, which officially set this year’s Christian Initiation Australia Network National conference in motion.
Held in Perth for the first time in 20 years, the conference was proud to present the local talent and expertise of Fr Chiera speaking on the conference theme: “Journey to the Source”.
Using a variety of quotations from the Bible, present and past Popes, Christian scholars and passages from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), Fr Chiera delved into a number of dimensions of the journey of faith undertaken by those focusing on conversion of heart and mind to Christ.
Fr Chiera made it clear from the onset of his talk that while scripture tell us that, thanks to the obedience of significant Biblical figures such as Abraham and the Virgin Mary, we are born into a journey and made for a journey, this “pilgrimage” is only purposeful in as much as it draws others onto the same path.
Quoting Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Fr Chiera emphasised that “Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel… they should appear as people who wish to share their joy; who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.”’
Using a variety of quotations from the Bible, present and past Popes, Christian scholars and passages from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), Fr Chiera delved into a number of dimensions of the journey of faith undertaken by those focusing on conversion of heart and mind to Christ. Photo: Marco Ceccarelli
Fr Chiera further explored this notion, explaining that while Christians are called to draw others to the faith by being witnesses of Christ, they are essentially the means by which a “journeying God” summons people, calling them to Him, and slowly revealing Himself to them in the everyday events of their lives.
“This is beautifully expressed by Saint Augustine,” Fr Chiera said, “when he says that ‘Christ is bread seeking hunger’".
Fr Chiera went on to speak of other aspects and phases of the RCIA, often returning to the importance of the “community of the faithful” as an ever-present body of people that helps candidates and catechumens throughout the process of initiation.
“The journey must be always with others because it is a vulnerable time, it is a ‘liminal’ or ‘in-between’ time of formation in which those journeying need fellow travellers supporting them.”
At the heart of the journey, Fr Chiera explained, is conversion. “This is a conversion to God that is built not only with texts – although knowledge and understanding of what has been written is very important – but with people,” Fr Chiera said, before emphasising that conversion is ongoing: “It is made every day at every moment in a life-long process of turning more and more to God and allowing ourselves to be transformed. It takes place over time and each person responds in his or her own way as God leads and directs them.”
Finally, Fr Chiera spoke of the journey to Christ needing a story, meaning that catechumens and candidates are invited to find their own story in that of Jesus and his followers.
This exercise, Fr Chiera explained, helps both catechists and catechumens understand “who we are” and “whose we are” because “the story of the God who acted then, is the story of the God who acts now until the story is fulfilled”.
Fr Chiera concluded by dwelling on the important part played by the rituals of the RCIA and on the paradoxical destination of the journey to Christ being as much about remaining on the right path of true self-discovery as it is about letting oneself be swept away by a new life of faith in God.