Easter vigil will welcome new Catholics
April 21, 2011
ARCHDIOCESE — A young adult raised in communist Cuba, an African woman who grew up as a Muslim, a U.S. Marine being deployed in June, and a former abortion clinic administrator, along with tens of thousands others around the country, are joining the Catholic Church in the United States at Easter.
José Pujols, is one of the 148 elect in the Diocese of Paterson, N.J., who will receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. Growing up in Cuba, he never felt a part of a church. After going through the RCIA process, he says he especially appreciates the sense of community the church has brought him. “It’s the best. I feel welcomed and a part of something important.”
Ahdija Cheumbike Baker was raised as a Muslim and is one of the 282 catechumens and candidates that the Catholic Church in New Orleans will be welcoming at Easter. Converting to Christianity from Islam was not an easy decision. Through her young adult life she struggled with some of her Muslim beliefs. After Hurricane Katrina, “I felt compelled to look for a church to call home so that I could give my thanks to God,” Baker said.
“If I had gone to a church that gets you in and out in 45 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have changed my religion; but at St. Peter Claver I feel a deep connection. The way that the priest speaks in his homilies moved me. I felt at home and accepted, and they have become my family.”
Kalene Laforest is an 18-year-old catechumen at St. Peter’s Church in LaGrange, Ga. She is a Marine and feels a strong urge to join the Catholic Church before going on assignment in June. She said she wanted a faith with depth, history, deep spirituality, tradition, and “no all-over-the-place craziness.” She is among 1,912 new Catholics in the Atlanta archdiocese.
In the Austin, Texas, area, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director and author of the bestselling book Unplanned, is getting ready for yet another “unplanned” conversion that will bring her into the Catholic Church. In September 2009, Johnson was asked to hold the ultrasound probe during an abortion. In the monitor, she saw the baby struggle to get away. This experience, and her unease with Planned Parenthood’s emphasis on increasing abortions, gave her the courage to leave her job and undertake a journey of conversion. She went to the Coalition for Life’s office down the street, a Christian pro-life organization whose members were a constant, prayerful and peaceful presence outside the clinic.
Her pro-life advocacy met the disapproval of her pro-choice former church. Many of her new friends are Catholic, and through them she has learned about the faith. She and her family will join the church along with 911 others in the Austin diocese.
Though larger archdioceses usually boast the largest overall number of converts — New York (1,600), Philadelphia (811) Washington (1,100), Seattle (1,000+), Galveston-Houston (2,490), Louisville (504), Milwaukee (613), Saint Paul and Minneapolis (643) — the Diocese of San Diego, with 1,253 people entering the church at Easter, is proof that you don’t need to be large to show some very impressive numbers.
In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, nearly 1,100 new Catholics will join the local church, embraced by the parishes that have educated them in their new faith over the past months. Some will receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil, and others will come into the full communion of the church at that time. An additional 62 persons were received into the local Catholic Church during the past year.
In an era where many churches report dwindling numbers at Mass and in participation in the life of the church, the stories of those who choose to join the church and pursue an active faith life can inspire and renew “cradle Catholics.”
In this issue of The Catholic Telegraph, as the Easter Vigil approaches, we would like to share some of their stories with our readers: