As her reception into church nears, anticipation grows

By: By Jennifer Willems

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third part in a series following Connie Burek of Brimfield as she prepares to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Here she talks about prayer, the ways the RCIA process has enriched a lifetime of faith, and a gift she wants to share with the Catholic Church.

As Holy Week begins, there is a sense of anticipation as those who are seeking reception into the Catholic Church make their final preparations. Prayer is an essential part of that process for Connie Burek, who admits to feeling some trepidation as the Easter Vigil approaches.

A lifelong Methodist who married into Catholicism 26 years ago, Burek was open to becoming Catholic if God led her to it. Last fall she discerned that this is what God wanted for her and entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Peoria Heights.

Concerned that she was at peace with the decision to become Catholic but hadn’t experienced “an overwhelming sense of joy” yet, she acknowledged that her journey is different from someone who has not been baptized.

“I have known Christ my whole life,” Burek said simply.

She is facing her fear the way she has done everything else, by taking it God.

Recently she went to Princeville so she could visit the chapel of the Community of St. John. Her spiritual director is Father Nathan Cromly, a member of the community, who also leads the Bible study in which Burek and her husband, George, participate.

“I wanted quiet reflection time,” she said. “My goal was to just listen. It was good. I just needed to still myself for awhile.”

Noting that sometimes “my prayer is way too full of me talking,” Burek tries to guard against a one-way communication. “It has to be a conscious thing,” she explained.

One of her concerns has been that she still doesn’t know everything there is to know about Catholicism, even after attending Mass with George and their children, helping her sons and daughters through Catholic school, and being active at St. Thomas.

“I should not expect that through the process of RCIA — or ever in my life — that I am going to completely understand everything about the faith,” Burek said. “But that’s what faith is, right? There are mysteries and we can’t always fully understand everything. We spend our lives trying to draw closer, but we’ll never necessarily have all the answers.”

One of the things the RCIA process has given her is a new way of hearing the readings at Mass, she said.

“I had considered each of the readings separately before — now I see the relationship between them,” Burek told The Post. “I really listen and look for that now. It has more meaning for me.”

Since they are not yet able to come to Communion, the RCIA catechumens and candidates are sent forth after the homily to “feast” on Jesus in the Scriptures. Msgr. William Watson, longtime pastor at St. Thomas, said this is one of the ways these women, men and children witness to the community.

“By going out and studying for themselves the Scriptures, it shows there is a need for all of us to open our hearts, minds and souls to Scripture and the sacraments,” he said, noting that Christ has called every person to be a living sign of his love and mercy in the world.

Msgr. Watson said the RCIA process is so beneficial because it allows the catechumens and candidates to engage in dialogue.

“We all need the context of the larger community to see all aspects of how the faith is lived. That’s not identical in every person,” he explained. “We need that constant interaction with one another.”

One of the gifts that Burek brings from her Methodist background that she hopes to share with the Catholic Church is a love for the missions and reaching out to people around the world.

First United Methodist Church in Peoria, which has been her other spiritual home, is committed to the missions “and I’ve embraced that,” she said. Not only has she raised funds for a hospital in Liberia, but she has traveled there to work with the people.

“At First United Methodist Church you’re surrounded by people and they’re living that out. . . . I’m afraid I’ll lose that,” she said. “But Father Nathan said, ‘You have to bring that with you and help us grow.'”

With George standing beside her, Burek will take the next step in her vibrant journey of faith at 7:30 p.m. on Holy Saturday, April 23.

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