by Bernard Chan
When I first heard about the RCIA retreat, I was somewhat hesitant about attending. I’d been to my fair share of corporate retreats and envisioned the same routine of endless breakout sessions, brainstorming and presentations. But I was glad the Lord persuaded me to go. The RCIA retreat was unexpected, different and powerful. It was a weekend of enrichment, fellowship and faith-building that will long remain with me.
Preparations began long before the weekend, assisted by technology in the age of COVID. For many of us, the excitement was about finally being able to spend quality time with each other, face-to-face, since the start of our Zoom-based RCIA journey.
The 2-day programme was spread out over 6 sessions, covering all the essentials of the Catholic faith. Right from the outset, we were reminded of the power of prayer, when we were invited to encounter God in silence. How to prepare ourselves, how to remain open to God, how He may move us to His will. And then, through Ignatian spirituality, to see all things anew in Christ. To be aware of blind-spots, to yearn for clarity, to see mystically. We discussed faith in God — how we might believe without seeing, how to examine what we believe, and how it connects to those who suffer. It was time spent in contemplation and introspection — we were invited as much to examine ourselves as to examine our faith.
For many participants, the screening of Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion Of The Christ, was like a punch to the gut. The images were raw and searing, leaving some audience members in tears. It certainly offered a glimpse of Jesus’ unwarranted suffering, which he endured for our undeserved sakes. It brought home the true meaning of Easter, in the midst of our Lenten experience, and helped prepare us for the coming Triduum.
After a night of reflection, the second day was spent exploring how we might grow our faith. Many were inspired by Trillion’s personal sharing; as a Catholic, business leader, wife and mother, with the same struggles and conflicts we all faced. We were also introduced to the Stations of the Cross — a devotion commemorating Jesus’ last day on Earth as a man filled with tradition, song and meaning. Together with Mass conducted on both days, it left me fascinated by how much of Catholic prayer was sung rather than spoken, and how much of it recalled ancient customs and wisdom.
There was much to learn and reflect on during this Retreat. But far more than that, it was a treasured opportunity to spend quality time with everyone — Fr Colin, facilitators, sponsors, godparents and fellow elects. To share meals with, to ponder and debate with, to laugh and cry with, to know better and to love.
I am grateful to Fr Colin and the many volunteers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare for this magical weekend. The care and attention they poured into their work was evident and fruitful; the Holy Spirit moved powerfully among us and changed hearts and minds. These angels inspired many with their selfless ministry and gave meaning to the Lord’s exhortation “To Serve”. They helped us open our spirits, deepen our faith, and strengthen our friendships, at this important milestone in our Christian journey. To them all, I offer my heartfelt thanks.
"All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully. As a result, we ought to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God." - St Ignatius of Loyola
BERNARD CHAN Elect, RCIA 2021/22