ROCHESTER — Losing a bet with her uncle just might turn out to be one of the best things ever to happen to Melyssa Greene.
Melyssa, now 16, moved in with her aunt and uncle, Kerry and Dan DeGrave, when her father died two and a half years ago.
"I don’t think she ever set foot in a church before she came with us," recalled Kerry DeGrave. "She didn’t have a choice then, because we went to Mass every week and she came with us."
After moving in, Melyssa said that she would join the choir at their parish, St. Vincent DePaul in Churchville, if her uncle sang along with the congregation at Mass. Dan DeGrave said he has "a horrible singing voice," so his niece didn’t think he’d hold up his end of the deal, but she underestimated him. After joining the choir Melyssa met and became close friends with Marissa Tucker, who eventually inspired her to become Catholic. Several months ago Melyssa began going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and Marissa, 15, is serving as her godmother.
Melyssa is one of the 350 people who will join the Catholic Church on April 19 during Easter Vigil services at parishes throughout the Diocese of Rochester, according to Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis. Melyssa is one of 187 catechumens who will receive the sacraments of baptism, first Eucharist and confirmation during the Easter Vigil. Another 163 candidates who previously had been baptized in recognized Christian rites will receive the sacraments of first Eucharist and confirmation. Eighty of those catechumens and candidates are children, Dundas said.
Bishop Salvatore R. Matano formally acknowledged these candidates and catechumens’ intentions to become fully initiated Catholics during Rite of Election and Call to Conversion services, which were held March 9 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester and March 16 at St. Mary Our Mother Church in Horseheads. During these services catechumens come forward to sign their names in the Book of the Elect and parish representatives present their catechumens and candidates to Bishop Matano, who greets each one individually.
"Today, my dear brothers and sisters, it is both a joy and a humbling opportunity for me to express my support for you as your shepherd," Bishop Matano said during his homily at one of the March 9 services.
The faithful in the Diocese of Rochester were rejoicing that day, he noted.
"We rejoice because these our brothers and sisters know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, light and dark, sin and virtue, and they have chosen to live in the light, the light of Christ. With the full import of their will, they choose virtue over sin."
The process of becoming Catholic will not turn these catechumens and candidates into perfect human beings, because the very nature of being human means that we are all fragile and dependent upon the Lord, Bishop Matano explained. Faith, however, helps those who believe in God to choose the right paths and make decisions in accordance with God’s will, he added.
"Let every new day be a confirmation of your faith, a reaffirmation that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light," Bishop Matano said.
The RCIA process already has helped confirm both Melyssa and Marissa’s faith, the teens said.
"It’s a lot of fun, and I love going through this journey with her. It’s a lot of responsibility, but I love it," Marissa said of her involvement in the process as Melyssa’s godmother.
For Andrew Stewart, the RCIA process has been a way to get a fresh start in life.
"It’s a cleansing, a clarifying process," said Stewart, who will be welcomed into St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Wayne County during the Easter Vigil.
Stewart said he made some choices he’s not proud of in his younger days, but now he wants to change his life. He wants to be a good husband to his wife, Neymaris, and a good father to their infant son, Vincent, who slept snuggled securely in his father’s arms throughout most of the March 9 service at the cathedral. Stewart also clutched a rosary made of gold and pearl, a reminder that the earliest seeds of his newfound faith actually were sown when he was a child.
Although his immediate family was not religious, one aunt had a religious statue in her home, Stewart said. When he was about 7, Stewart opened a small door in this statue and found a rosary inside, which he assumed was a necklace.
"When I saw the necklace I thought God gave it to me. I wore it every day for 10 years," Stewart recalled.
That rosary eventually broke, and Stewart eventually replaced it with his current rosary, which is a reminder of the faith and the church family he’s come to embrace.
"When you come to the church it feels like here’s your family, and my church sort of adopted me," he said.
Tags: Faith Formation