WASHINGTON — During what the Roman Missal describes as the "mother of all vigils," the U.S. Catholic Church welcomed thousands of new Catholics at the Easter Vigil April 15 in churches big and small across the country.
About 60 of the nearly 200 dioceses in the United States reported numbers of catechumens and candidates entering the church in 2017 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. The Archdiocese of St. Louis reports numbers later in the year, after parishes submit statistics.
Catechumens receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and first Communion — during the Easter Vigil, having prepared for this moment through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Candidates, who are already baptized, also go through the preparation program to receive confirmation and first Communion to enter into full communion with the Church.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, welcomed 1,756 catechumens and 938 candidates, while the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston reported 1,667 catechumens and 708 candidates. The Archdiocese of Seattle had 679 catechumens and 409 candidates, the Archdiocese of Miami had 524 catechumens and 214 candidates, and the Archdiocese of Washington reported 483 catechumens and 698 candidates.
Not far behind was the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, which reported 387 catechumens and 528 candidates.
The Tablet, Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper, said that the numbers of new Catholics entering the Church and those seeking full communion in the Church were so staggering that the diocese had to hold two ceremonies for the Rite of Election in early March.
On Holy Saturday, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, the "greatest and most noble of all solemnities" took a little longer than usual this year. In addition to the dramatic symbols of light and the seven Old Testament readings, 52 catechumens and 25 candidates were welcomed into the Church.
"Now that I am an adult, I better understand my call to faith. I have a responsibility to cooperate with my faith in God," said Kari Morales, a native of Mexico, who was joining the church at Easter. "I've heard a lot of misconceptions about the Church," added Morales, a psychologist at a public school. "There's a lot of negativity out there. The period of preparation opened my eyes to the truth."
In the Diocese of Rochester, New York, the RCIA involvement of Dan and Michaela Cady — along with their sons Aidan, 15, Solas, 12, and Merritt, 10 — was spurred by a family tragedy. Two years ago, their daughter and sister Kennis, then 12, died unexpectedly.
"It just turned our heads about life," Dan Cady said. He added that his family was grateful for the support it received from the staff of St. Jerome Parish in East Rochester, and from there opted to pursue RCIA. Dan said he was confident that his daughter was watching over the family as they continue on their faith journey.
"We would like to think it's orchestrated by her," he said. Some of the family members received the sacraments this year, and others will next year. Overall, the Diocese of Rochester this year reported 96 catechumens and 149 candidates.
Elsewhere in New York state, the Diocese of Rockville Centre reported 232 catechumens and 327 candidates; the Diocese of Buffalo had 56 catechumens and 105 candidates; and the Diocese of Syracuse had 49 catechumens and 70 candidates.
Jarrid Perusse of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo, Fla., said that while he was in Orlando, he "got saved on a porch" during a summer internship as a door-to-door salesman. He realized that God was reaching out to him, and "it was my turn to start reaching back," Perusse said.