College students were among many who entered the church - Catholic Courier

College students were among many who entered the church

Although she wasn’t Catholic at the time, Abby Perry began attending Sunday Mass at St. John Fisher University with fellow freshman Angelea Collins shortly after the pair arrived on the Pittsford campus. At first, going to Mass felt like an obligation, but that soon changed, Perry recalled.

“I loved the way I felt after leaving the church, and I started going every Sunday,” said Perry, who was welcomed into the Catholic Church March 30 during the Easter Vigil at Fisher’s Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great.

Number of people preparing to enter the church has returned to pre-pandemic levels

Perry is one of about 200 people who were welcomed into the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil liturgies in parishes and faith communities throughout the Diocese of Rochester. More than 80 of them, including Perry, were catechumens, who are people who have not previously been baptized, said Donald Smith, diocesan coordinator of sacramental life and family catechesis.

The catechumens spent the last several months preparing for the sacraments of baptism, first Eucharist and confirmation, and signed the Book of the Elect Feb. 18 during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, Smith said.

Also participating in the Rite of Election were more than 110 other diocesan residents who prepared to receive the sacraments of initiation during the Easter Vigil. These people, known as candidates, already had been baptized in Catholic or recognized Protestant rites but never received first Eucharist and/or confirmation.

Smith said the number of candidates and catechumens welcomed into the church this year is higher than it has been in at least four years, finally having returned to pre-pandemic levels.

More than half of diocesan parishes had at least one person going through the process of Christian initiation this year, as did many of the faith communities on local college and university campuses, Smith added.

“We are noticing, as we often do, a good number of college students who are either returning to the practice of the faith or finding the church,” he said.

College students question, learn about their faith

The number of Cornell University students working their way through the initiation process has been growing steadily since 2018, confirmed Matthew Hall, associate director of Cornell Catholic Community. This year, 15 candidates and six catechumens prepared to receive sacraments during the Easter Vigil on campus.

These numbers aren’t necessarily surprising, Hall said, since many college students are at the stage of life when they’re asking serious questions about themselves, their identities and the world around them.

“For some, those questions will include questions about God and Jesus. For some of these, answers to their questions will be found in the church,” he said. “Simply being on campus and available to students to provide them with or guide them to the answers that are available from the Catholic faith is key.”

A college campus is an ideal place for a person seeking answers about his or her faith, agreed Deacon Jonathan Schott, assistant director of campus ministry at St. John Fisher. This year, he and Basilian Father Kevin Mannara, director of campus ministry, worked with 11 students preparing to receive the sacraments during the Easter Vigil.

As the students regularly attend Mass and catechetical sessions, they also are exploring and maturing in their faith just by virtue of living on campus and in community with their Catholic peers and mentors, Deacon Schott said.

“They don’t have to go and seek it out elsewhere. It’s not like they have to go to class once a week to see us. You’re seeing Father Kevin walking down the sidewalk, or you’re seeing Deacon Jon in the dining hall,” he remarked. “It’s a round-the-clock experience, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be a series of check marks on a paper until you ‘graduate’ and get confirmed.”

Sacraments represent the beginning of faith journey, not the end

Perry agreed. While she was excited about receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil, she also realized that she is far from the end of her faith journey.

“I feel like becoming baptized is going to help me continue to grow in my faith. … It really is the beginning,” she remarked.

As a candidate, fellow Fisher student Maggie Bacon was eager to be confirmed March 30. She’d been longing to be confirmed for some time, but it wasn’t until she arrived at Fisher that she felt ready to take that next step in her faith journey, she said.

“I feel taking this step will help me grow my relationship closer to God,” Bacon said.

Tags: Faith Formation, Holy Week
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