Samantha Soto and her godmother Samantha Barker smile and embrace April 16 after Soto was baptized during the Easter Vigil at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. (Ruby Becker/Archdiocese of Portland)
Samantha Soto and her godmother Samantha Barker smile and embrace April 16 after Soto was baptized during the Easter Vigil at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. (Ruby Becker/Archdiocese of Portland)
Deacon Larry Loumena, director of RCIA at St. Henry Parish in Gresham, believes the dozens of parish directors of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults across the archdiocese have one of the best jobs in the church. This year alone parishes welcomed more than 400 new Catholics into full communion with the church via those classes.

The work isn’t only life-giving for the new Catholics, said Deacon Loumena, but also for the faith of the community as a whole. “When the congregation sees the RCIA group it helps them remember that the church is alive and growing,” he said.

And for those seeking baptism, Communion and confirmation?

“We provide the means for them to accept the grace of God,” he said. “It’s a process they enter and it never stops. You actually bring people to Christ.”

Deacon Loumena has been an RCIA director for a total of nearly a quarter century now, first at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland and now at St. Henry.

A successful RCIA program, he said, depends upon its volunteers and sponsors. At St. Henry, three volunteers boast 60-70 years of experience and the program has a good record of attracting sponsors who take that faith journey with a catechumen or candidate. “It’s a big responsibility, to teach them the ways of Christ,” Deacon Loumena said.

In return, he believes the sponsors are graced as well.

Each year brings a different group of people who want to become Catholic, some of them troubled souls and others feeling on top of the world; some with a lot of theological experience and others with no faith background at all; conservative and liberal.

“It was the Holy Spirit who brought you here,” Deacon Loumena says to them all.