Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Easter Celebrations Welcome Youth and Adults to the Church

It was a dark and stormy night in late March, yet the new fires and candlelight spread throughout the parishes in the Diocese for the Easter Vigil. One of the most beautiful liturgies of the year, the candlelight of the Easter Vigil represents the Risen Lord, who paid the price for our sins on Good Friday, and defeated death and rose triumphant that Easter morning, giving us all new life.

This year, hundreds of people were welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church during Easter Vigils. Every new Catholic has a unique journey which brought them to the Church. For Nichole Pennington, becoming Catholic was important as she and her fiancée, Andrew Dudziak, a Catholic from birth, plan their future together.

“He was born and raised Catholic, and I was born and raised Presbyterian. We’re getting married in June and it’s really important to me to able to receive Communion at my wedding, so I decided to join the Church. We also want to be able to raise our kids Catholic,” said Pennington before the Vigil at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg. “The RCIA process was very educational and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed learning all about the Church, its Traditions and why we believe what we do.”

“Bringing her with me to Mass helped us to engage for this Mass tonight. It has been a joy to be her sponsor and watch her journey through the process to this moment,” Dudziak added.

Abigail Castle, who also joined the Church at the Cathedral, said it was through attending King’s College, a Catholic institution, that propelled her to join the Church.

“I’m feeling very comforted and I feel very much at peace with the decisions I made to receive the sacraments. I feel very confident in where I’m at, and happy to be here as a full member of the Church,” said Castle. “Going to a Catholic college really helped put it on my mind and on my heart to join the Church. Being away from home, the Mass was somewhere that I felt very comforted and safe, and it was a place where I went to find my peace, and it ultimately led me on this journey.”

At Corpus Christi Parish in Chambersburg, 14 children were welcomed into full communion with the Church, with an additional one receiving baptism.

“This is the largest (class) we’ve had for a while,” said Father Allan Wolfe, pastor, who added that those joining the Church during Vigil did not include everyone the parish’s RCIA program.

“It’s very exciting. Even if they might be out of the normal course, because these are youth, it is exciting that all of these families are coming to us at this point,” Father Wolfe added.

Ten out of the 15 youth were Latino, which Father Wolfe said is a positive sign of the community building occurring at Corpus Christi.

Young Kimberly has been preparing for the Vigil for over two years and she was very excited about receiving all three of her Sacraments of Initiation.

Carter, Emma and Spencer Sito were also excited to receive their sacraments during the Vigil Mass.

“I’m excited about going into the Church so I can be with God more,” said Carter.

“I’m looking forward to seeing God,” Spencer added, who received only the Sacrament of Baptism due to his age.

“Being with God,” was the one thing Emma was most excited about.

Carter added he was most looking forward to receiving the Body of Christ for the first time.

‘New Disciples’

During the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral, Bishop Timothy Senior spoke to the candidates and catechumens.

“You inspire us all tonight by your witness. In an age where there is so much secularization and people questioning the relevance of religion and of faith, you’re going in a different direction and embracing the timeless truths of our faith. We rejoice with you. We’re inspired by you. We’re challenged by you, too; challenged to think about this great gift of our faith. Could we ever treasure it enough, to understand that the truths that have been revealed to us, the power of the Gospel, the hope it brings into our world, and the Resurrection of Jesus in particular?” said the bishop.

“Christ is Risen, truly he is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia. Are you guys tired? Should we go home and come back another day?” said Father Wolfe during his homily to the children about to join the Church. “It’s not a surprise that you’re tired. For two years now you’ve been preparing for this night. And what a night it is. But you know the one who’s worked the hardest on this? Jesus. If we listen to the scriptures today, the stories from the Bible, we understand how much God loves you. We have 15 of you who will all be receiving baptism. This is all about Jesus loving you. He loves everyone else as well, but He loves you. He did everything so we could be at this point tonight.”

“And tonight, tonight boys and girls, you’re making a choice for Jesus. Right before I baptize you, you’re going to say that you believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s not only saying the right answer, it’s your way of saying I want to love God, just as much as He loves me,” continued Father Wolfe. “You’re going to say ‘I believe in God the Father,’ and that means that you want to cultivate, to promote a relationship, a friendship with God the Father. When you say you believe in Jesus, it means you want to be a disciple of Jesus, following Him closely every day. And when you say you believe in the Holy Spirit, it means you want to be attentive, listening, following how the Holy Spirit is guiding you. All the work God has done to bring you to tonight, He is going to help you every day as a beloved daughter and as a beloved son of God. You’re not getting a gold star today to take home and hang on your wall. You’re starting a relationship with God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

(Corpus Christi photos by Rachel Bryson; St. Patrick Cathedral photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Rachel Bryson, The Catholic Witness

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