USCCB News Release
March 31, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thousands join Catholic Church at Easter liturgies
Numbers show vitality and growth of the Church in traditionally non-Catholic areas
For Catholic Church, Easter Brings Joy of New Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Lord
WASHINGTON—As many as 150,000 new or returning Catholics are expected to join the Catholic Church in 2009 in the United States. Many of them will do so at the Easter Vigil liturgies, April 11, in parishes across the country.
In some cases the numbers show the growth and vitality of the Catholic Church in places where it has traditionally been a small minority. For instance, the Archdiocese of Atlanta estimates that 513 catechumens and 2,195 candidates will join the ranks of the Archdiocese in 2009. About 1,800 of them will do so at Easter. These numbers do not include infant baptisms, which are recorded separately.
Catechumens are people who have never been baptized. Candidates are those who have received baptism in another Christian community and are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.
"The Archdiocese of Atlanta is in a part of the country with a large non-Catholic population, and has been blessed with an authentic dynamism during recent years, which is perhaps best expressed in our annual Eucharistic Congress, which draws some 30,000 participants. One of the many blessings that we have received from the Lord is the large number of individuals entering the Church," said Father Theodore Book, director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Atlanta Archdiocese.
And they are not the only ones. On the opposite side of the country the Archdiocese of Seattle will welcome 736 catechumens and 506 candidates for a total of 1,242 new members; and the Diocese of San Diego will baptize 305 new members and welcome 920 other baptized Christians adding a total of 1,225 to its ranks.
In the mostly rural Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, the Cathedral of St. Paul could not handle all who are joining, 445 people in total, and their families for the Rite of Election. The rites where held in three different ceremonies, two at the Cathedral on the first Sunday of Lent, and another one in Huntsville the prior Saturday. Braving the snow, some parishes came from as far as 80 miles away to participate. The Rite of Election, usually celebrated at the beginning of Lent, marks the official count down to the official initiation or admission into the Church.
Baptism also will have a special significance this year for Heidi Sierras of Ceres, near Modesto, California, along with her family, church sponsors and parish community. Sierras will be representing the people of North America at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and will be baptized by Pope Benedict XVI.
Around the country parishes in dioceses big and small, urban and rural, are preparing for the special Easter liturgies filled with symbolism that will lead the "neophytes" (i.e. newly baptized), those received into full communion, their new faith community and the entire Church from darkness into light.
For the numbers joining in a sampling of dioceses that responded to a quick informal survey go to http://www.usccb.org/mr/mediatalk/catholic_church_new_members.shtml.
Nationwide, the 2008 Official Catholic Directory lists 49,415 adult baptisms and 87,363 people coming into full communion in 2007.
---Keywords: Easter, Adult Baptisms, RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Catechumen, Candidate, Catholic Church. Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archdiocese of Seattle, Diocese of San Diego, Diocese of Birmingham