Alecia Bedwell remembers as a child asking if she could attend CCD classes like the other kids she knew, but, although she was baptized Catholic, religion was never a focal point in her home. Now, decades later, she has returned to the faith and will be received fully into the Catholic Church this Saturday at St. Polycarp in Smyrna.
Bedwell is one of six people who completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Polycarp this year. Another is her daughter, Alexandra Orfetel. Both have been baptized and will receive first Communion and be confirmed at the Easter Vigil.
For several years after her daughter’s birth 16 years ago, Bedwell attended an Episcopalian church, but they drifted away from that faith.
“I felt something was missing,” Bedwell said recently. “Probably in the last two years I was thinking of getting myself back in the (Catholic) church, especially for my daughter. Whether she chose to pursue it, I needed to set the tone for her. She took it on, and so here we are.”
Bedwell lives in Middletown and works as an operating room nurse at Wilmington Hospital. She occasionally carpools with Pam Boyd, whose husband, Mike, is a permanent deacon at St. Polycarp. Bedwell said she would pick Boyd’s brain about the Catholic faith during their commute.
Boyd, she said, never tired of the conversations and encouraged the questions.
“I would just have questions, and she answered them. I said that’s where we need to be.”
Boyd said Bedwell took the conversations to heart.
“She really thinks about the things that we talk about and asks questions later, once she’s had time to digest it and figure things out,” she said.
Boyd mentioned that St. Polycarp had the RCIA program, and Bedwell started attending last fall. She lives within walking distance of St. Joseph’s in Middletown, but she has become comfortable in Smyrna.
Bedwell, 44, approached her daughter, a sophomore at Appoquinimink High School, and explained that St. Polycarp had a class for adults and older children who were thinking of joining the church. Orfetel was happy to join her mother.
“You would think a 16-year-old kid would be like, ‘Oh, Mom, do I have to go?’ But I didn’t get that at all. There was never an argument. She was on board from the beginning,” Bedwell said.
Bedwell grew up in Aston, Pa., but her memories of Masses there are slight. She recalled large crowds when she would attend with her mother and two brothers at Christmas and Easter, but she didn’t learn much about the Catholic Mass or tradition. “I didn’t know what to do. My mom never told us what to do or why we were there. We went twice a year.”
After several months of classes, she now understands the history and tradition of Catholicism, along with why people kneel at certain points during the Mass and stand at others. She admits the concept of the Real Presence was a challenge and asked Boyd how the bread and wine could be more than a symbol.
“I said, ‘Well, I have a hard time believing that that is the actual. It is a symbol in a way.’ (Boyd) said no, you have to get past that thinking. That’s what it is. I had to wrap my head around that one for a little bit,” she said.
Bedwell has noticed that her faith plays a role in her work in the operating room. Some patients, not knowing she was attending RCIA, have asked if she would pray with them. Some are Catholics, others are not, but that doesn’t matter. Another patient held her rosary beads through an operation, and Bedwell prayed the rosary during the procedure.
She said co-workers and her daughter have seen a difference over the past several months. “My daughter said I’m nicer. Co-workers have noticed a change in me. Things don’t bother me as much.”
Boyd has enjoyed accompanying Bedwell and Orfetel on their faith journey. “It’s been very inspiring. She and her daughter have really embraced all the things that we’ve been teaching her about the Catholic faith.”