With several trickles of holy water and gentle swipes of blessed oils, three children became members of the Catholic Church before their family, classmates and teachers at South City Catholic Academy
It’s a special memory that Darnea Taylor said she hopes her eighth-grade classmates will remember well into adulthood. She, along with her cousin, fourth-grader Lakori Fonville, and second-grader Kailand Thomas-Holmes, were baptized Oct. 20 at an all-school Mass at St. Joan of Arc Church in St. Louis.
With their baptisms, the “Holy Spirit leads them and helps them to join the community of faith here in the Catholic Church,” Msgr. Vincent Bommarito told the students. “Every time we get an opportunity to experience this sacrament, that’s mystery. That’s beauty. That’s love of God for us. Today God is loving all of us and loving our three candidates.”
Darnea and Lakori also received their First Eucharist the same day; Kailand will prepare for the sacrament with his second-grade classmates. Darnea also will prepare for confirmation with her classmates.
Becoming closer to God was a major factor in Darnea and Lakori’s decision in becoming Catholic. Darnea said she also was influenced by her grandmother, Maria Fonville, who she said has a close relationship with Jesus. Both girls have been students at Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese from an early age and witnessed their classmates receiving the sacraments over the years.
“I wanted to be able to talk more to God,” said Darnea, who is hoping to attend a Catholic high school next year. “I thought if I became Catholic, I would be able to better learn the prayers — I know they have special meaning. I thought, I can just go to church and pray to Him, and have Him as my motivation and the first name that I call on.”
Pam Miller said she saw the seeds being planted in all three students, especially Darnea, who would come to her with deep questions about the Catholic faith.
“She has such a profound way about her,” said Miller, director of faith formation at South City Catholic Academy. “Her questions were deep and make you wonder about your own faith in a positive way. Watching all of this unfold has taught us all a lot — I know she’s taught me a lot along the way.”
Maria Fonville, the girls’ grandmother, also was not surprised when they approached her about their interest in becoming Catholic. “They let me know that they were ready to follow Christ,” she said. “And they did this all on their own. They made this choice. I am very proud of them.”
Fonville said her hope is that the girls will develop into “true women of God and get out there and do His work. And maybe one day, they will help
change the world.”
Kailand’s great-grandmother, Donna Lindsay, said her great-grandson has been interested in baptism since he was in kindergarten. Kailand previously attended Most Holy Trinity School in the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis, which closed in May of 2020.
“When the school closed, that was detrimental,” said Lindsay, a longtime member of Most Holy Trinity Parish. “He lost his classmates, but since coming to South City Catholic Academy, this baptism is really bringing him in. Having that camaraderie with his classmates is helping him to settle in more.”
Kailand celebrated his baptism the following weekend after Sunday Mass with his parish family at Most Holy Trinity. “My hope is that he will grow deeper in his faith and succeed,” said Lindsay. “This was such an opportunity for the children to … choose this journey with Christ, and to be among their classmates.”
In addition to the three recent baptisms, there are six students at South City Catholic Academy who are either considering entering the Catholic Church or are in the process of formation.
Nancy Schweiss, a fourth-grade teacher, said she saw the baptism as a beautiful opportunity for evangelization. “Many children have never seen a baptism,” apart from those who might have seen an infant baptism of a family member, she said. “I am hoping for those (students) who aren’t Catholic that this will inspire them, and maybe spark a few conversations with their families.”