Hundreds to join Catholic Church at Easter
Rachele Sick had two good reasons to become Catholic: her two sons, ages 2 and 3.
Sick felt called to convert when she and her husband decided to raise their sons in the Catholic faith. She had been baptized in the Methodist Church as an infant, but she did not attend church growing up. Now she hopes her faith will set an example for her sons.
"I want to be a role model for them in the faith," Sick said.
Sick is a candidate who will join the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday at Holy Family Catholic Community in southern Livingston and northern Steuben counties. She said that becoming Catholic has helped her to see the goodness in the world.
"It’s much easier to focus on the good in my life and my family’s life," said Sick, a Dansville resident who recently began volunteering with the Community Answers Needs Network. "It has brought a desire in my heart to help others and spread the goodness I feel."
Friend Amy Osganian of Geneseo, who began bringing Sick to Mass 12 years ago when Sick was a junior in college, said she also learned more about the Catholic faith through Sick’s journey. As Sick’s sponsor, Osganian joined her in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes and sometimes brought along her 14-year-old daughter.
At the end of the afternoon Rites of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion March 13 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Osganian gave Sick a big hug and told her, "I’m so proud of you."
That also was a sentiment also expressed by Bishop Matthew H. Clark several hundred times during celebrations of the Rites of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion in the afternoon and evening of March 13 at Sacred Heart Cathedral and on March 20 at St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads. He personally greeted all the baptized candidates and unbaptized catechumens who will join the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil.
"You raise my spirit, you renew my hope, you remind me of God’s presence and active love in all of us in every day we live," Bishop Clark said.
He told the candidates and catechumens to think of their own journeys of faith in the context of Jesus’ faith and sacrifice. He also encouraged them to remember that their actions can affect the entire community.
"Belonging to him, we belong to one another," Bishop Clark said. "We are one body."
And soon that body will grow. According to Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis, 71 parishes have a combined total of 173 catechumens and 239 candidates. Seventy of the catechumens and 63 of the candidates are children.
Dundas said one of the largest groups participating in RCIA came from St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, a new parish that comprises Church of the Annunciation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of the Americas, St. Andrew and St. Michael churches in Rochester. As their parishes were in the midst of a consolidation, the 33 catechumens and candidates met together, she said.
"They came together as one group, and I think that’s fantastic," Dundas remarked.
Candidates and catechumens alike said the desire to have a deeper connection with God motivated them to learn more about the Catholic Church.
"I just felt as if by getting baptized, I would feel near God," said Meylisia Maviogha, a catechumen from Rochester's Cathedral Community. "I would have God by my side."
Though Andrea Fitzpatrick, a candidate from Holy Family Catholic Community in Wayland, always had an interest in God, a tragedy made her want to learn more about the Catholic Church.
"My husband and I lost our first baby, and it brought me closer to God," she said.
Verna Baumgarten of Honeoye Falls, who has been attending St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua and St. Bridget/St. Joseph in East Bloomfield, also was led to the faith as a result of difficult circumstances. Although Baumgarten had not been religious, several medical issues and the death of her grandson brought her closer to God, she said.
"My husband and I have experienced some very profound miracles for the past several years," Baumgarten said.
She said she felt connected to the Canandaigua and East Bloomfield parishes because when she was ill, she watched Father Thomas Mull, pastor of the parishes, celebrate Mass on television Sunday mornings. Baumgarten said she wanted to get involved in a faith community so she could start giving back to the community.
"It’s fun to watch people of all ages going through the class," Baumgarten said. "It has brought me peace in my life."
Many aspects of Catholicism have appealed to her, including emphasis placed on forgiveness. Baumgarten said she also appreciates being able to follow the guidance she receives in the Gospels.
"It’s nice to be among other people who are kind and caring, and have the same values in this kind of world right now," she said.
Candidate Rick Platt of Brighton, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes, said he had been attending Mass for about 12 years with his wife, a Catholic, and their family before deciding to convert to the Catholicism (he was raised a Protestant). He said getting a refresher on the Bible, which he last studied in his youth, has been a side benefit of the process.
"It’s been great to go back and relearn and refresh some of our previous Biblical religious teaching," said Platt, who added, "I also have a better understanding of the Catholic faith as it is practiced."
Platt said even though he has attended Mass for years, he learned a lot about the parts of the Mass and about Catholic rituals and beliefs.
He said the opportunity to be welcomed into the church by Bishop Clark during the Rites of Election capped the experience of his conversion.
"It starts to put some closure to the process, and it makes you feel like now you are being welcomed into the community," Platt said.