.- Thousands of new Catholics were baptized and thousands more Christians were received into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter vigil last weekend.
Jeanette DeMelo, communications director for the Archdiocese of Denver, reflected on the vigil Mass’ beginnings in darkness and the symbolism of its transformation into full light.
“Christ our light comes and breaks through the darkness that we experience in suffering and in death and in sin,” she told CNA April 9. “I think that also happens for each of those people who are coming into full communion with the Church. There is that experience of the light of Christ.”
Young and old, single and married, immigrants and native-born Americans, all came together as the newest members of the Church for the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One of those received into the Church is Houston resident Randall Wilson, a meteorologist who was born and raised a Baptist. He first experienced the Catholic Mass while on a date and felt drawn back for more, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.
“The richness and fullness of the Catholic Church isn't found anywhere else. Looking back, I see how much was missing,” he said ahead of Easter. “I’m not even 100 percent Catholic yet, but I can't imagine my life without the holy sacraments, without praying the holy rosary, without confessions and without the holy Eucharist.”
Those who were not already Christian received the sacrament of Baptism, while those converting from other Christian traditions made a profession of faith with the newly baptized. They all participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which is a process for conversion and study of the Catholic faith.
About 22 people from a variety of backgrounds, mostly unbaptized catechumens, entered the Catholic Church at downtown Denver’s Holy Ghost Church.
“Our sanctuary was completely filled. It was great also for our pastor, with his first time celebrating the Easter Vigil,” parochial vicar Fr. Michael Warren, OMV, told CNA April 9.
One man had come from a “very difficult family background” and underwent many “spiritual struggles,” the priest reported.
He had doubts about his ability to finish the RCIA program and doubts about his ability to be loved by God.
“There were lots of times he was tempted to drop out of the program, but he persevered,” Fr. Warren said. “He was probably the happiest of the whole lot, because he had known such a great trial. He was so happy when the moment finally came to be able to enter the Church.”
At St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul, Minnesota, a family of nine children was baptized on Saturday.
After their mother died, they went to live with their uncle. He enrolled them in the parish school, where they had powerful experiences at Mass and took religious classes that encouraged them to ask their school’s pastor for baptism.
Felichia Laws, a 30-year-old Texas resident, told the bishops’ conference that her new daughter’s baptism helped encourage her to join the Catholic Church.
“During my daughter’s baptism, my body was overcome by so much joy and fulfillment that it is very hard to put into words,” said Laws, who began the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults just before her daughter received baptism.
“I realized then that though I had started the process for her, I also wanted the same baptism for me.”
Teenaged brothers Alex and Chris Barbosa were baptized at St. John Catholic Church in Monroe County, Michigan.
Chris, 13, told the Monroe News his reason for baptism was “hope.”
Sixteen-year-old Alex said he wanted “to form a better relationship with God.”
“It was destined to be,” he said.
The numbers of new Catholics run into the tens of thousands.
In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, nearly 2,400 joined the Catholic Church. Groups of over 1,000 people joined the Church in the Archdioceses of Denver, New York, San Francisco, San Antonio, and Washington.
The Diocese of Orange set a record number for new Catholics, with 921 newly baptized and 668 already baptized Christians entering the Church.
Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Washington have welcomed over 1,000 people into the Church at Easter for each of the past nine years.
According to the 2011 Official Catholic Directory, over 43,300 adults were baptized as Catholics last year, while 72,800 people were received into full communion with the Church.