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Longtime RCIA teacher ‘humbled’ to bring children into faith

April 24, 2015
Christina Gray

St. Isabella parishioner Judy Rosenbloom speaks with motherly pride when she told Catholic San Francisco on April 16 that Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone will confirm 77 new people in the faith when he visits the parish on Apr. 26.

Along with students of St. Isabella School and the parish religious education program, the archbishop will confirm 24 children in the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults adapted-for-children program, run by Rosenbloom, 73, for 16 years.

She started the RCIA-adapted-for-children program at St. Isabella in 1999 when her grandsons, whose parents are not Catholic, asked if they could be baptized and receive the sacraments, “just like their grandma.” Like many parishes, St. Isabella did not have a program for them.

“It’s God’s program,” Rosenbloom said, deferring the praise her fellow parishioner Susan Egisti offered in a letter to the newspaper. “It’s very humbling to think families trust you with their child’s faith life.”

Every Sunday at 1 p.m. from September through the end of May, Rosenbloom’s RCIA-adapted-for-children class meets in the parish social hall. Students are encouraged to bring family members and friends because, “there are no breaks or holiday,” she said.

RCIA-adapted-for-children is not well understood or supported, admitted Rosenbloom, who described it as meant for children from families who are new to the Catholic Church and not enrolled in Catholic schools, or for families that for a variety of reasons, never got around to having their kids baptized or confirmed. Sometimes children and parents are going through RCIA together.

There is not an actual program called “RCIA for Children,” said Rosenbloom. Unlike religious education classes which have a formal curriculum and teaching materials, the RCIA adapted-for-children program adapts the adult program to make it suitable to a younger audience.

“We don’t do all the things that the adult program does,” she said. There is a part of the program called the “scrutinies” where RCIA students look at what’s sinful in their lives. “For little kids we don’t do that.”

“It’s not meant to be a program to catch up kids that fall through the cracks, but in a sense it is that,” she said.

Since the program is not offered at all parishes, families come from all over the county. It started with two or three children and their families and each year since, more and more have been coming. Last class was close to 90 people.

They carried the flags in procession, had their feet washed on Holy Thursday, processed the canopy over the Eucharist to the altar of repose, carried the gifts at the offertory, took up the collection with ushers and pronounced the prayers of the faithful. From Palm Sunday to Easter, Rosenbloom’s RCIA students participated fully in Holy Week activities.

Though her husband, Al, who is Jewish, is very supportive of his wife’s devotion to the program, Judy knows the day will come when she must retire and is looking for volunteers who will carry the torch.

“There is so much joy in this,” said Rosenbloom. “I feel very spoiled.”

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