Lily Svejkosky, Mackenzie Thornton and Gracelyn Van Damme do many of the things any sixth-grade best friends do: have sleepovers, play video games together and go to Six Flags over the summer.
And this year? Mackenzie and Gracelyn helped bring Lily into the Catholic Church.
Lily received all three sacraments of initiation — baptism, first Communion and confirmation — at Epiphany of Our Lord Parish during the Easter Vigil April 16.
“St. Louis of France once said that the date of his baptism was more important than the day of his coronation as King of France,” Father Michael Rennier, pastor of Epiphany Parish, told the congregation during his Easter Vigil homily. Just like the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, when we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection, baptism marks our death to sin and new life as part of the body of Christ, he said.
Lily smiled as Father Rennier poured holy water over her head three times. “Lily, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
A few minutes later, she was confirmed: “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
And during Communion, for the first time, she was able to join her friends in receiving the Body of Christ.
After her first Mass as a Catholic, accompanied by her friends and family, Lily summed it up simply: “I feel so great.”
An invitation through friendship
A few members of Lily’s extended family are Catholic, but she was not raised in any faith tradition. Her real introduction to the Catholic faith came through Mackenzie and Gracelyn, she said. The three became friends at Gateway Science Academy, and since faith — going to Mass, attending PSR classes and being involved in Epiphany Parish — was a normal part of life for Mackenzie and Gracelyn, Lily heard all about it.
“Sometimes we would talk about church at school, and at sleepovers, she would always be like, ‘Oh, can I go to church with you guys (in the morning)?’” Gracelyn said. “She always wanted to go.”
Lily recalls feeling immediately drawn to the Mass when she attended for the first time.
“(The Mass) was really nice and felt comforting,” Lily said. “I just felt very peaceful.”
Since Lily was new to the Mass, Mackenzie and Gracelyn made sure to help explain what was going on, helping her follow along with the readings and prayers in the missal. Last fall, they invited her to start coming to PSR classes at Epiphany, too, excited to be able to share this part of their lives with Lily.
“Normally people are like, it’s not that fun to be in church, but I enjoy it,” Mackenzie said. “When Lily started coming, I was like — someone who actually understands what church is like for me!”
After speaking with her family and Father Michael Rennier, Lily decided that she wanted to take the steps to become Catholic. Children at Epiphany Parish are typically confirmed in eighth grade, but since Lily was to receive all the sacraments of initiation at once, she joined the confirmation PSR class. Like they had all along, Mackenzie and Gracelyn accompanied her to help her feel at home.
Lily enjoyed learning all about the stories of the Bible and the saints, she said, and having the chance to visit beautiful places like the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. She asked Mackenzie’s mother, Kate Makela, to be her godmother and confirmation sponsor.
“One of the things that I find pretty amazing about Lily is that most people who don’t grow up in a church are not interested in it, and I think she’s pretty amazing that she’s made this decision on her own,” Makela said. “She didn’t stop — she kept asking to come.”
Lily chose St. Kateri Tekakwitha as her confirmation saint. Besides being known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” St. Kateri also was a young woman who pursued the Catholic faith on her own initiative.
“(Lily) pursued this; she wanted this,” Makela said. “I find that pretty amazing that somebody as young as she is was passionate enough about it to make it happen.”
>> The baptismal promises
Before baptism, the person to be baptized (or their parents, in the case of infants) answers these questions with “I do” as a renunciation of sin and profession of faith. Renewal of baptismal promises is often included for the whole congregation during Easter Mass, accompanied by the sprinkling of water to remind us of our own baptisms. We are also reminded of our baptismal promises every time we enter a church and make the sign of the cross with holy water.
Do you renounce Satan?
And all his works?
And all his empty show?
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?