|Thousands Of Every Age And Background Will Enter The Catholic Church On Holy Saturday|
WASHINGTON—Tens of thousands of people from around the country will be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, Holy Saturday, on March 22, through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Called catechumens, they will be baptized, confirmed and receive Holy Communion on that day. In addition, others known as candidates and who already have a valid baptism will be admitted into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The numbers vary across dioceses and people joining are of every age and come from all walks of life. The Diocese of Orange, California, for example, will baptize more than 650 people and welcome more than 500 others into full communion at the Easter Vigil. In Texas, the Diocese of Austin reports it will welcome 314 are catechumens and 522 candidates; the Diocese of Fort Worth welcomes 390 catechumens and 529 candidates.
Most of those coming into the church through the RCIA program are adults, but in some instances children are part of both groups, usually as families enter the church together.
Mark Ma, a second year student at the University of Virginia, who has a major in economics and a minor in philosophy, was born in Beijing, to agnostic parents. A self-defined hard-line atheist through high school, he started talking to Christians of different denominations, read a few Christian works and began to pray. After soul searching and historical research he found his home in the Catholic Church.
In Tucson, Steven Parceluzzi, 41, was admitted last June to an inpatient medical facility. There, he met the hospital chaplain, Father Bill Kohler. Parceluzzi had not been raised with any religion, but had relatives in Italy who were Catholic. Father Kohler told Parceluzzi he recognized the struggle he faced and that the priest and his parish community would be there to support him if he needed them. After his release from the hospital, Parceluzzi pursued the RCIA at St. Cyril of Alexandria parish. His conversion led to his wife, Terri, his mother, Nina, and his niece, Jennifer, joining him in embracing the faith.
In most instances, there is a sentiment of finally coming home. When Kimberly Grub moved from Texas to Rhode Island, she decided to embark up on something she'd been wanting to do for a long time: get closer to God. Feeling the discomfort that comes in moving to a new place, she found comfort and community at St. Lucy's Church in Middletown.
In a look around the country, the Archdiocese of Detroit registers some of the largest numbers with 589 catechumens receiving full initiation and 497 candidates from other Christian traditions being received into full communion. Although technically not part of the RCIA, 289 baptized Catholics will also receive confirmation and Eucharist.
In Ohio, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will welcome during the Easter Vigil 437 catechumens and 541 candidates for a total of 978 people; another 65 candidates were brought into the Church at other times during the year. The Diocese of Cleveland will baptize 327 people and receive 526 candidates into full communion for a total of 853 people.
The Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, follows closely with 339 Catechumens and 447 candidates. The Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon will welcome 396 catechumens and 355 candidates.
Some smaller dioceses report significant gains as well. Birmingham, Alabama, a small mission diocese, reports 97 catechumens and 306 candidates. The Rite of Election at the beginning of Lent had to be held in three separate ceremonies to fit everyone, catechumens, candidates, sponsors and guests, in the cathedral church and other venues.
The Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, will baptize 120 catechumens and welcome 321 candidates. The Diocese of Colorado Springs reports 119 catechumens and 192 candidates, while Fargo, North Dakota will welcome 142 people, 23 to be baptized and 119 to be brought into full communion. The Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, counts 84 to be baptized and 267 to be received into communion. Among those to be baptized is a young quadriplegic man from a parish in the town of Macon.
The Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, will welcome 78 catechumens and 74 candidates, and will bring to sacramental life another 108 baptized Catholics who had not previously received all sacraments of Christian initiation. The Hartford Archdiocese reports a large Hispanic contingent coming from the Waterbury and New Haven areas.
These numbers are supplemented by the baptisms of infants that occur in parishes throughout the year. It is estimated that more than a million infant baptisms will take place in the U.S. during 2008.
The Rite of Christian initiation of Adults is an ancient rite that was reinstated after the Second Vatican Council and is the regular way for adults to come into the Church.
According to the latest annual figures from the Official Catholic Directory, almost 64,500 adults were baptized in the church in the United States last year, and almost 93,000 came into full communion.