WASHINGTON (April 3, 2007)—Tens of thousands of people will join the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday, April 7, through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Many of them, known as catechumens, participated in the Rite of Election with their bishops at the beginning of Lent and will be baptized, confirmed and receive Holy Eucharist for the first time on Holy Saturday. Those known as candidates, who were already baptized but did not receive further catechetical formation, have been pursuing an adapted version of formation and will complete their initiation. Other candidates, who were baptized as members of another Christian community, will be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest archdiocese, with over 4.4 million Catholics, celebrated two Rites of Election in order to accommodate all 1,294 catechumens and their sponsors. In addition to the catechumens, nearly 1,500 candidates in Los Angeles will be formally welcomed into the church Holy Saturday.
Numbers vary across dioceses. Some of the largest groups coming into the church are in the Archdiocese of Detroit, which is welcoming 612 catechumens and 913 candidates and the Diocese of San Diego, with 851 catechumens and 1,036 candidates. The Archdiocese of Atlanta reports 457 will be baptized and 631 received into full communion. In the Archdiocese of Seattle there will be 636 catechumens baptized and 520 candidates welcomed.
The Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, has 11 catechumens and 42 candidates; the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska, has 15 catechumens and 11 candidates. In the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, 27 catechumens will be baptized and 31 candidates will be welcomed into full communion.
In the Diocese of Honolulu, 33 catechumens are part of the RCIA at the Korean Catholic Community at St. Pius X Church. This group consistently has the highest number of the state's converts.
In the Diocese of Salina, Kansas, as in past years, the largest RCIA group is from the student center at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas. This year the college community has 18 catechumens and 46 candidates.
The 2006 Official Catholic Directory reported 80,817 adults baptized in the Catholic Church and 73,684 coming into full communion the previous year. In addition, there were 943,264 infant baptisms.
A breadth of diversity shows among those joining the Church in the Archdiocese of Washington's Mother Seton Parish in Germantown, Maryland. Among the 10 catechumens are one Hindu and two Buddhists. The youngest is 16; the oldest over 40. Their countries of origin include Sri Lanka, Laos, Japan, and Jamaica. The 14 candidates include a 23-year-old newlywed and a 62.year.old Baptist who has been married to a Catholic for 37 years. Others come from Christian backgrounds, including the Episcopal, Baptist and Christian Reformed churches.
One priest in the Archdiocese of Washington is preparing his father to join the church on Holy Saturday. Father Scott Woods, parochial vicar at Mt. Calvary Church, Forestville, Maryland, joined the Catholic Church in the ninth grade while a student at Archbishop Carroll High School. His father, James Woods, a former Baptist, began learning about the Catholic faith around the time of his son's conversion and recently formalized his faith formation. Father Woods was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington five years ago and will preside over his first Easter Vigil service Saturday evening when his father is welcomed into full communion with the church.
Adults will enter the church in every one of the country's 195 dioceses and in virtually every one of the nation's nearly 19,000 parishes.
In the Diocese of Austin, Texas, high school junior Meghan Avery is joining the Catholic Church after enrolling at a Catholic high school. She was baptized in the Presbyterian Church as a young child, later attended services of various denominations, and started to know Catholicism when she helped one of her mother's Catholic friends with a vacation bible school at St. Luke Parish. There Meghan befriended another Catholic teen who encouraged her to enroll in Holy Trinity Catholic High School last fall. Prior to changing schools she read up on Catholicism, then grew even closer to the faith while attending Mass at her new school.
An entire family of 10 is eagerly anticipating reception into the church together at St. Anne Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. They grew interested in the church when Jennifer Eastman, 29 weeks pregnant with her youngest daughter, Victoria, was admitted to Via Christi-St. Joseph Hospital, where she prayed the rosary for the first time while watching the EWTN Global Catholic Network. Less than a week after delivering Victoria, the entire family attended its first Mass together. Jennifer and her husband say they had considered becoming Catholic for some time and wanted to help their children grow spiritually. They found added appeal in the church's universality.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is an ancient rite that was reinstituted in the Church following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). It is the usual means for adults to come into the Church.
Infant baptisms take place in parishes throughout the year. It is estimated there will be about one million infant baptisms in 2007.