ROCHESTER — Rob Clark, who attends The Catholic Community of Blessed Trinity’s St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wolcott, said he has two reasons for going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process to be initiated into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.
One is the inspiration he received from his 16-year-old daughter, who went through RCIA last year.
The other was a dream he had in which Christ appeared wearing a crown of thorns, Clark said.
"When I saw him, he looked at me and said, ‘Is it the crown that bothers you? I can take it off,’ and all I could think was to say ‘No,’ because it was me that put it there," Clark said, recalling his dream.
Afterward, Clark’s mother told him she thought the dream was Christ’s way of asking him to come back to church. When Clark next attended church, all of the readings focused on the theme of someone who had walked away.
"I knew at that point that it was time for me to finish," Clark said. "I just hope I can live up to his expectations."
Clark — who was baptized Catholic and made his first Communion, but had never been confirmed — is one of several hundred people in the diocese who will be joining the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. There are 179 unbaptized catechumens and 182 baptized candidates who will be received at the Easter Vigil.
"We are all here because somewhere we have heard the voice of God in our lives," Bishop Clark said Feb. 26 during an afternoon celebration of the Rite of Election and Call to Conversion at Sacred Heart Cathedral. A second celebration of the rite took place at the cathedral that evening, and a third took place March 4 at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Ithaca.
"We will never be disappointed if we say yes to God," Bishop Clark said.
The bishop encouraged candidates and catechumens to think about how they wish to contribute to life of the community they soon will be joining.
"We hope we can offer back to you in some reasonable measure these precious gifts you give to us," Bishop Clark said.
Michael Balch of Marion was among the candidates participating in the diocesan Rite of Election. His mother recalled his baptism, which took place at Strong Memorial Hospital when he was an infant having health problems.
"They told us when he was a week old that he’d live approximately six months," said his mom, Penny Balch of Marion. "We took him off life support, and I asked God to let me have him for a little while."
Twenty-two years later, Balch stood proudly by his mother in Sacred Heart Cathedral. He said he first went to St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Ontario on her behalf and never completed any of his sacraments. Now he enjoys going to Mass.
"Mass is like a big family now, except it’s God’s family," Balch said.
Gwen Collins said she wanted to join the church because of the welcoming home she had found at Our Lady of Peace Parish/St. Stephen Church in Geneva. She described the Rite of Election as thrilling.
"I think everything left me," Collins said of being greeted by Bishop Clark. "He asked me my name, and I couldn’t remember it. It was so thrilling. For him to take the time to do this was just wonderful."
After the rite, Tiffany Folk gathered her family together for a photo in the cathedral. They will be baptized together at the Easter Vigil at St. Mary Parish in Waterloo.
"We’ve been on our own family religious journey for some time, going to different churches and trying to find what fits for our family," said Folk, who grew up attending Catholic Church but who had not received sacraments.
The family has bonded as they have learned about different saints, she said. Tristan, 13, will take the confirmation name of Patrick, because he was born on St. Patrick’s Day. Trinity, 10, chose St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for her perseverance, while Calista, 9, will take the name of St. Mary Magdalene, because the saint loved very much.
Angelique and Christopher Santiago likewise are family members going through the RCIA program together. Angelique, 19, said half her family is Catholic, so she felt like she belonged in the Catholic Church.
"It was more me growing up and deciding I want to learn more," she said of her decision to get involved in RCIA through the Cathedral Community.
Christopher, 16, said he wanted to become Catholic before he left for the Marine Corps in several months.
"It just helps me in my daily life making better decisions," he said of his faith.
"I am proud," Angelique said of her brother.
Becoming Catholic has been the aspiration of 11-year-old Kiora Bullock since she was 3. The East Rochester resident said she missed the enrollment deadline for the RCIA program several years in a row, but finally was able to participate this year at St. Jerome Parish.
"Whenever I’m in church, I feel safe, and I feel loved and I feel like I belong there," Kiora said.