Students discover the Catholic faith at University of Louisville 

Jaiden Raney, left, and Dominican Father John Paul Kern, sat on the steps of Holy Name Church, 2914 S. 3rd St., May 17. Raney is one of five University of Louisville students who were received into the Catholic Church during an Easter Vigil celebration at Holy Name. Father Kern serves as chaplain of the Catholic Campus Ministry on the University of Louisville’s campus. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Jaiden Raney said he experienced the best moment of his life when he ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus Christ for the first time at Easter Vigil.

Raney, a 19-year-old University of Louisville freshman is one of five students from the school who were received into the Catholic church during the Easter Vigil at Holy Name Church, 2914 S. Third St., April 3.

Raney and the four other students were prepared through the university’s Catholic Campus Ministry’s newly established Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, said Dominican Father John Paul Kern. Father Kern serves as chaplain of Catholic Campus Ministry on the university’s campus and started the RCIA program last September.

Raney said he grew up as an atheist, but had a “conversion experience” at the age of 15 in which he believed in the resurrection but didn’t know how to process the experience.

“Jesus is God. I believed that, but I didn’t think he loved me. I felt like I was outside the possibility of grace,” said Raney in a recent interview.

Separation from his mother, he said, caused him to struggle with depression. He was on the brink of committing suicide one day when he felt Jesus’ love and presence, he said.

In his search for meaning, Raney said he joined a Reformed Baptist Church where he was baptized. Still not satisfied, he started looking into the Catholic faith. He learned about the papacy and the Eucharist and those two things drew him to the faith, he said.

Father Patrick Dolan, third from left, and Dominican Father John Paul Kern, were photographed with University of Louisville students following an Easter Vigil celebration at Holy Name Church April 3. Five students, seen with their sponsors, were received into the church at Easter Vigil. Father Kern serves as chaplain of the Catholic Campus Ministry on the University of Louisville’s campus.  (Photo Special to The Record)

“Drinking our Lord’s blood and partaking in his body was the most transformative thing. I couldn’t stop smiling. That was the best moment of my life,” said Raney of his experience at Easter Vigil.

Father Kern — who leads the RCIA program with the assistance of Father William Bowling, pastor of Holy Name Church — said Raney had a “thirst for truth.”

“God gives people the grace to realize he loves them and people are drawn to that,” said Father Kern. “In his case, he wants to know more about God, so he was soaking everything up.”

Since the Easter Vigil, Father Kern said Catholic Campus Ministry has been accompanying the new Catholics as they prepare to go out and live their “Catholic life.”

This period of the RCIA process is known as mystagogy and runs through Pentecost, which is this Sunday, May 23. It’s a time when the new Catholics discover what it means to fully participate in the church, said Father Kern.

“We talked about the spiritual gifts that God gives us in baptism and confirmation and how we live those out as members of the church. Among these would be things like being involved in charitable works and service,” said Father Kern. “We’re thankful that God has had mercy on us and he’s forgiven our sins and we want to go and be merciful to others. … It directly flows out of this great gift that God has given us by allowing us to be a part of his church that we would then go out and want to share that love with others.”

The five students received into the church included one catechumen, someone who’s never been baptized, and four candidates, those who’ve been baptized in a different faith tradition and whose baptism the church recognizes.

Father Kern said he’s been discussing the sacrament of confirmation in particular.

“That sacrament is oriented towards evangelization,” he said. “We talked about how it’s natural to want to talk about somebody you love. They’ve come to realize that God loves them and that they love him and the sacrament of confirmation now equips them to go out and talk to other people about that, though they are very young and very new. A lot of times God gives, what we call ‘convert graces’ to those who are new and are very excited and want to tell people about these things.”

To learn more about the University of Louisville’s Catholic Campus Ministry, visit https://uoflcatholic.org/.

Ruby Thomas
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