Thursday, June 14, 2012

St. Bernard catechumen is offered opportunity for a second chance

Darrin Buckland was fully initiated
into the Catholic Church at Holy
Saturday this year. The 43-year-old
looks forward to starting a new life in
the church, free of drugs and alcohol.
(Photographs by Michael J. Arvizu/
St. Bernard Church)
By Michael J. Arvizu

It is a bright, early Thursday morning. With me is Darrin Buckland, 43, a former Navy brat and Illinois native.

Now, let me tell you something about Buckland. Every morning for the last four years he has been coming to church, quietly sitting in the back row. He is a tall guy. His handshake is firm, and his face lights up with a bright smile when I meet him for our interview. My first impression of him is that he is a quiet man, a reserved man, humble and gentle. Yet underneath his quiet demeanor is a man full of excitement, joy and gratitude for what he is about to experience during Holy Week.

At his side is his RCIA instructor, Mary Trujillo, who joins us for the interview.

I meet Darrin after the daily 8 a.m. Mass. Buckland has been looking forward to our interview since we talked during his weekly Sunday morning RCIA class with Mary, which is where I first met Darrin.

For the last few months, Buckland has been enrolled in our parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, or RCIA. And on April 7, 2012, Holy Saturday, Darrin received the sacraments of baptism, Holy Eucharist and confirmation — all in one night.

Overwhelming? “Yes!” Buckland exclaims. Most people receive three of the seven sacraments at certain, fixed points in their lives — baptism as newborns, first communion as children, and confirmation as teenagers. Darrin received all of these in the space of one hour.

RCIA is designed for individuals who wish to enter the church at a time in their lives when they are able to fully comprehend what is taught to them. RCIA is designed for individuals 6 years of age or older who were never baptized; or for adults who were baptized but never received confirmation or the Eucharist and who have had little or no formation in their Catholic faith. The program teaches the tenants and customs of the church and challenges students to take a closer look at the religion they are about to initiated into. They are encouraged to ask questions about the faith from their instructors and sponsors, and they receive mentoring each step of the way. While in RCIA, no student is ever left alone on their journey toward complete initiation.

So it is with Buckland. Even as we walk to the church office, Trujillo brings up a question Buckland had earlier about the use of white vestments. He listens carefully to her explanation as we walk.

“He wasn’t too sure about his faith at the time, but just little things that would bother him,” Trujillo said. “One of the things that he was very adamant about was that he didn’t know enough about God. He felt that his faith wasn’t there.”

Darrin Buckland receives the sacrament of
confirmation from St. Bernard Parish Administrator
Father Perry D. Leiker as his sponsor, Ernie Obrero,
looks on.
RCIA can also serve as a way for people to enter the Catholic Church who may be former members of another religion as well. Buckland is a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church. And this is where our interview starts.

ARVIZU: What is your religious background? Have you always considered going to the Catholic Church?

BUKLAND: I was a Mormon. It didn’t stick with all of my life. I lost my religion in my past. I walk to church every morning, Monday through Friday. And then I go to church on Saturday night and then on Sunday morning. I did not like the Mormon Church, ever since I was young.

ARVIZU: What was it about Catholicism and the Catholic Church that attracted you, that inspired you to start the RCIA process?

BUCKLAND: It’s less stressful than the Mormon Church.

ARVIZU: Explain.

BUCKLAND: I felt that I never really fit into the Mormon Church, that’s why I came to the Catholic Church.

ARVIZU: Why did you see yourself not fitting in with the Mormon Church?

BUCKLAND: I had a hard life growing up. I lost my religion because I used to do drugs. I lost everything, religiously. When I came here to the Catholic Church, I felt like I fit in because it’s a lot better. Plus, I only live 20 minutes away from here.

ARVIZU: So you felt more at home with the Catholic Church and with other Catholics as well?

BUCKLAND: Yes, I do, because I have a wonderful teacher, Mary [Trujillo]. [St. Bernard Parish Administrator] Father Perry [Leiker] is a great person. People welcome me. When I come in they say “Hi” to me and ask me how I am doing. They care. I didn’t get that when I was younger.

ARVIZU: Would you say that joining the Catholic Church is a way for you to make up for what you did not have when you were younger?

BUKLAND: Yes, it’s true.

ARVIZU: How do you feel now that you’re going through this process? It’s been a process for you, right, something that you have to dedicate part of your life to?

BUCKLAND: Yes. I would like to dedicate the rest of my life being Catholic.

ARVIZU: Has it been easy or has it been hard for you, dedicating yourself to this process and seeing it through?

BUCKLAND: No, not difficult at all. Like I said, I like it here and am welcomed.

ARIVZU: Has that made it easier for you?

BUCKLAND: A lot easier, because I lost my faith in the Mormon Church; and now since I am clean and sober, my life is here.

From left to right: St. Bernard Parish Administrator
Father Perry D. Leiker; Darrin's sponsor, Ernie Obrero;
recently confirmed and baptized, Darrin Buckland;
Darrin's RCIA instructor, Mary Trujillo; and Darrin's
friend, Maggie Bracamontes, at the conclusion of Holy
Saturday services at St. Bernard on Saturday,
April 7, 2012.
ARVIZU: You’re going to be baptized. You’re going to receive your first communion. You’re going to be confirmed. What have you had to do in order for that to happen?

BUCKLAND: Just committing myself. I’m just committed here. I’ve grown up a little bit, you know?

ARVIZU: You’re so close to being fully initiated into the church. What’s going through your mind? What are you thinking about?

BUCKLAND: I needed to get baptized. When I first walked in there and walked in the door, I was very emotional. I’ve just never been welcomed before. I have a family of seven, and I just lost my faith. Now I’ve started to get it back slowly but surely.

ARIVZU: You had a rough start to your life. Do you think that this is a second opportunity from God?

BUCKLAND: Yes, this is my second opportunity, and it’ll be the last opportunity.

ARVIZU: In what ways have you made changes to your life to fulfill that, to be grateful that you’ve gotten a second chance?

BUCKLAND: I’m clean and sober now. My mind is starting to get better. I think a lot more now. I need a second chance at life, because I overdosed on drugs many times. I should be dead right now, but I’m not because God has a given me a second chance; he has a purpose for me.

ARVIZU: What do you think God’s purpose is for you?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know. I don’t know what he wants me for. Hopefully, it will be something nice.

ARVIZU: Have you been able to talk to your fellow candidates about the RCIA process, get their thoughts about what it is like to be fully initiated?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know how they feel right now. I hope they’ll welcome me. They’ve been very supportive. I don’t know them yet, spiritually. But they are there with me and are there to support me.  There was no support in my life until I started going to the Catholic Church.

ARVIZU: Tell me about your family.

BUCKLAND: They’re not supportive at all. I wish they would be. My father, he accepts me being a Catholic. I love my father. He’s supportive of whatever I do.

ARVIZU: Your family hasn’t been as supportive as you would like, but your father has been. How important do you think support is — not just for you but for anybody who’s going through this process?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know. I’m supportive of myself. I am sure they’ll probably support it, but I know them well and it may not happen.

TRUJIILO: But the people around you, while you’re going through RCIA process, you’re being accepted and you’re being welcomed. How does it feel when the people are just saying “Welcome.” How does that feel? Is that something you think is important to have when you’re going through this process?

BUCKLAND: Yes, it is. It’s very important, you know? I never had anybody support me. When I am being dismissed, I am looking at everybody. It’s kind of scary because I don’t want to interrupt anything. I don’t draw people into my life.

TRUJILLO: So that’s something that’s new to you right now, is having people support you.


RCIA catechumen Darrin
Buckland is baptized by
St. Bernard Parish
Administrator Father Perry D.
LEiker during Holy Saturday
services at St. Bernard on
Saturday, April 7, 2012.
ARVIZU: Tell me what you will be thinking about on Holy Saturday when you are baptized, confirmed and receive holy communion for the first time.

BUCKLAND: Emotional things, emotional thoughts. I’ll be happy, because I am being accepted. I have a wonderful teacher. I have a friend that’s supportive. I don’t know. I can’t put it into words. It’s just wonderful.

ARVIZU: Is this something you’ve been looking forward to for a long time?

BUCKLAND: Yes. I am looking forward to it. For the last four years, it has been good, very good. I had to struggle when I first moved to L.A., because I am the only person here in my family. I have no family here, so I have to depend on myself.

ARVIZU: Tell me about those first few years when you first moved to L.A.

BUCKLAND: I was living in Ventura. My father was born there, and I was living with his mom before she passed away.  I’ve always wanted to live in Los Angeles since I was a little boy. I always wanted to move here, and I got that chance. And Hollywood’s around, too. I love that place. It was hard for me to make friends because I always had to move.

ARVIZU: Where were you born?

BUCKLAND: Great Lakes, Illinois. I was there for like a year-and-a-half and then they moved. My dad moved a lot. I would make best friends, and then I had to move. And then I would have to move. So it’s hard for me to make a friend because I moved so much. I don’t know why I can’t make friends right now. That’s probably it, right?

TRUJILLO: I think that the Catholic Church has so much consistency. We have Mass at the same time. We see the same places all the time. It adds to the feeling of security that a community is going to be there for you. You said that it’s hard for you to make friends. Has it been easier to make friends here at church?

BUCKLAND: Yes. I like that a lot.

ARVIZU: You struggled so much when you came here. Now you’re entering this whole new phase where there are people who support you, care for you, and are concerned about you. How do you feel about that? It must be overwhelming.

BUCKLAND: It is. It is very overwhelming. Actually, I love it here. I love going to the meetings every day. When I come in, there are two or three people that say “Hi, how are you?” And I go, “Fine, thank you. How are you?”

ARVIZU: Does it catch you by surprise, people saying “Hi!” to you?

BUCKLAND: Yeah! I’m like, “Oh, my God!” They say hi to me on the street. It is very nice.

ARVIZU: When you are fully initiated, how are you going to pay back what you’ve been given? Are you going to go into ministry, maybe counsel others? How are you going to return the favor?

BUCKLAND: By staying away from drugs and alcohol. Staying away from old friends. People say that I’m going to start all over again, have a great life. I’m having a great life right now; but after I’m baptized, I’m going to have a better life. I’m committed to church and not having the devil on my side.

ARVIZU: What inspires you to keep going, to keep pursuing this gift that you will receive?

BUCKLAND: I like to learn a lot about the Catholic Church. I want to do my homework. I want to know everything about it. It’s a wonderful place. It’s good to start over. I like going to these classes because I learn so much in my mind and in my heart. I can’t explain it coming out of my mouth. I have people who’ll tell me things and they’ll explain it really well so I can understand it. That’s what I love about this program; people will explain it to me.

TRUJILLO: Seeing him, listening to him asking questions, I see his confidence getting stronger and stronger. It’s because he’s been asking questions, wanting to know. What happens in the classes is that a lot of students — we have discussions — they’ll have a question and we’ll discuss it. Then, after class, Darrin will ask them to clarify it: “Why did they say that?” or “Is it OK if I did this?” If he heard something and he wasn’t sure about it, he asked me to clarify it.

ARVIZU: When you’re in class, when you don’t understand something, you ask that it be explained?

BUCKLAND: Yes, I do. I am very quiet, and I don’t want people to think that I am stupid or something because I don’t understand.  It’s great to ask somebody else to explain it to me.

ARVIZU: I don’t blame you. Even people who are in the Catholic Church, they themselves may not understand all the things we do at Mass, for example. You’ve been able to slowly learn more about that.

The newly-baptized and confirmed Darrin Buckland
prepares to make his first communion, at Holy Saturday
services at St. Bernard on Saturday, April 7, 2012.
BUCKLAND: I know the process, and I will be able to do communion the right way.

ARVIZU: Tell me about those first few days of RCIA. Were they easy, were they difficult, were they overwhelming?

BUCKLAND: It reminded me of school. I did terrible in school. I had to quit and go to work because I wasn’t making it. I was not making it in school. I thought this [RCIA] was going to be “school.” I thought they were going to give tests. I thought they were going to give me whatever. [Laughs] I know I was going to fail.

ARVIZU: But it wasn’t that.

BUCKLAND: No. Not even close! [Laughs] It’s just wonderful because I am learning something, finally. It’s a wonderful class, it is. I like going to it. I may be quiet, but I’m learning something.

ARVIZU: Did you ask a lot of questions those first few days, or did you just go to class and listen to what Mary was saying?

BUCKLAND: Yes, it was going to class and listening to what Mary was saying.

TRUJILLO: Mostly it was regarding his faith. He would ask questions about the church, some of the things that were happening in the church or why it was being done. So we’re all growing and learning in our faith journey, all together. Darrin is so new. Some of the other students in the class are candidates; they have some knowledge of the Catholic faith, but Darrin started out not knowing anything.

ARVIZU: There is a line of scripture in the Bible about “my cup overflowing.” Do you believe your cup is overflowing?

BUCKLAND: Oh, yeah! It’s a slow start. I’m thinking about in the middle right now. I am about at the middle of the cup.

ARVIZU: Where do you see yourself five years from now, as far as your faith is concerned?

BUCKLAND: I don’t know, a lot of things. Maybe settle down with a girl or something. I hope she’ll be inside the Catholic Church if I settle down. It hasn’t happened yet, but hopefully it will happen in the future.

ARVIZU: As a catechumen, every Sunday you have to leave the church after the priest’s sermon — we call it “being dismissed.” What do you do during that time?

BUCKLAND: We carry the [Gospel] book outside. Mary will ask me questions about his [the priest’s] homily. Sometimes I’m on the nose, sometimes I’m not. I try to focus on what he’s saying. By the time I get outside, it’s gone. We open the book and then we read it. The things I didn’t get [from the priest’s homily], I get from reading the book.

ARVIZU: How do you feel about having to leave in the middle of Mass? Does it make you feel kind of sad that you’re not able to stay for the entire Mass?

BUCKLAND: Sometimes, but not all the time; I do miss it. I want to be part of it. I am part of it spiritually, right?

ARVIZU: You’re almost there. When you wake up that morning, what are you going to do? Do you have anything special planned? What will be your thoughts?

BUCKLAND: I think I am going to have a great morning. Being a Catholic, to me, is one of the best choices that I’ve seen. I’ll be happy. I’ll be getting my suit and tie on and dress for the day at the church. It’s a little scary, but then it’s a little wonderful. It will be emotional. I’ll want to cry, but I am going to try not to cry. I have a heart. I feel for things. When my brother died, I cried. My other brothers, not even a tear. I have a heart, and I like to share my heart wherever I go.

ARVIZU: That’s a beautiful thing to say.

BUCKLAND: Thanks. It’s how I feel, all the time.

ARVIZU: If you were to give other candidates, other cathecumens, any advice, what would that be, if you could sit down with them and offer them a piece of your heart?

BUCKLAND: Just go to where your heart says. Believe in God. That’s very important, to believe in God and say how you feel.

ARVIZU: What has been the primary driving force for you these past couple of months? What has inspired you?

BUCKLAND: God has been inspiring. I pray to God every morning. I feel a lot better than I used to. I never prayed. I prayed sometimes, it never worked out so I stopped praying, but I pray every day now.

ARVIZU: When you say that “it never worked out,” what do you mean?

BUCKLAND: I would pray for somebody and then the next day they would break their leg or end up in the hospital because their heart’s not good.

TRUJILLO: I think you see prayer differently now?


ARVIZU: How do you see it?

BUCKLAND: I pray for my family. I pray for my friends. And I pray for myself to not make any stupid mistakes. That is what I say for myself when I pray.

ARVIZU: What is your favorite prayer?

BUCKLAND: The Our Father. I’ve known that since I was in Narcotics Anonymous. I learned that prayer when I was 18 years old. I am 43 and I know how to say it really well. It’s a good prayer. The opening prayer that Father Perry does, that’s a good one, too. It’s inspirational, I guess you can say. So much to look up to.

ARVIZU: Any last words?

BUCKLAND: Thank God. Thank you.

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