At churches around the world, the Easter Vigil is a significant milestone for catechumens and candidates who have made a commitment to enter into the fullness of the Catholic Church through the sacraments of initiation.
In churches here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and elsewhere, the Easter Vigil often begins with a lit fire outside of the church and a blessing and lighting of the Paschal candle, followed by a procession into a darkened church and the flame from the Easter candle spreading from person to person.
The Exsultet, or Easter proclamation, declares: “This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin. This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to His holy ones.”
Through their commitment to be witnesses of Christ, the catechumens and candidates who joined the Church share a message of hope. This week’s edition highlights five young Catholics — two of whom were received into the Church at the Easter Vigil with the support of their friends and faith communities.
Henry Vest, a senior at Vianney High School who was confirmed and received his first Communion at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in St. Louis, said his classmates, teachers and campus ministers were a tremendous support as he asked questions about the Catholic Church in theology classes. He also was inspired by a friend and hockey teammate, Tim Dotson, who was confirmed in the Church last year and served as Vest’s confirmation sponsor.
“Everyone there accepts and supports you in your faith and meets you where you’re at,” Vest said of his time at Vianney. “It’s crazy to think that this is the place who made me who I am.”
At Epiphany Parish in St. Louis, Lily Svejkosky received all three sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and first Communion — all because of two friends, Mackenzie Thornton and Gracelyn Van Damme, who invited her to Mass and Parish School of Religion.
“(The Mass) was really nice and felt comforting,” Lily said. “I just felt very peaceful.”
These new Catholics entered the Church not because of a program, but through a personal invitation. This is what true evangelization looks like, simply inviting people to “come and see” what the Church has to offer. The gifts of God’s love and the Church He gave to help us get to heaven are meant for everyone. It is our responsibility to share these gifts with others.
Through these acts of evangelization, we see the positive impact upon the greater Church. When Dotson was confirmed last year, Vianney theology teacher Grace Burnworth was moved by the emotional reaction of Dotson’s grandfather who witnessed his grandson being confirmed.
“It made me realize how impactful this is to the Body of Christ,” Burnworth said. “The way it impacted his family, his community — it’s so much bigger than just himself.”