Hundreds prepare to join the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil
Evan Brown was 13 when he asked his mother a troubling question.
“He said to me one day, ‘Why don’t we ever go to church?’” Trudie Brown recalled.
Trudie Brown had been raised Catholic but her husband had not. Their oldest son, Brendan, was baptized in 2002 at St. Cecilia Church — which now is part of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Irondequoit — but by the time Evan was born, Mass attendance had “kind of fallen off the grid for us,” Brown said.
“His inquiry was what prompted us to start to find out how we needed to go about getting back into the church community,” she added.
After learning about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Evan and Brendan began the process at St. Kateri. On March 31 they will be among the 267 adults and children who will be welcomed into the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Rochester. Evan and 90 of those people are catechumens, or people who have never been baptized and will receive the sacraments of baptism, first Eucharist and confirmation during the Easter Vigil. Brendan and the other 175 are candidates who were baptized in Catholic or recognized Protestant rites but did not receive first Eucharist and/or confirmation. They will receive those sacraments during the Easter Vigil.
These candidates and catechumens hail from many parishes throughout the diocese. St. Kateri has the distinction of having the largest number of RCIA participants this year, with seven catechumens and 12 candidates. Jodi Schott, the parish’s faith-formation director, attributed this large number to St. Kateri’s recent focus on evangelization and faith-formation efforts.
“Our strategy has been to focus on warm, welcoming liturgical experiences, evangelization efforts, strong formation opportunities for all ages and service as a way of life,” Schott said.
Schott specifically credited the parish’s Family Faith Formation and Alpha programs with inviting people into relationship with Christ and the church, sparking renewed interest in the RCIA. Alpha is a 10-week program aimed at helping participants explore and deepen their faith, while the family program creates small Christian communities through which participants in the parish’s faith-formation program can share and discuss their faith, Schott said.
Many of the people going through the RCIA process at St. Kateri have been involved in the parish’s Family Faith Formation and Alpha programs, she added.
Sarah Neidrich is one of those. She was baptized in the Episcopalian Church as an infant but her Episcopalian father and Catholic mother decided not to raise her in either denomination and let her choose her own faith later, Neidrich said. As an adult with questions about the Catholic faith, she signed up for the Alpha program at St. Kateri last summer and found it so beneficial she decided to go through the RCIA.
“I had a lot of questions answered and learned a lot, and it’s actually helped a lot with other things in my life. I’m really glad I chose to do it at this point in my life,” Neidrich said.
People tend to find their way to the initiation rite in various ways, noted Jesuit Father Gerry McKeon, associate chaplain at Ithaca’s Cornell Catholic Community, where 13 people currently are going through the RCIA. Some are inspired to become Catholic by the example of their Catholic friends at Cornell University or Ithaca College, while others want to be closer to God and part of a faith community.
“Some have reflected for some time about this. Some have grandparents who inspired them on their faith journey. Some like the sacramental life and the Eucharist, which is essential to Catholicism,” he said.