Church welcomes new members at Easter Vigil
During the Easter vigil Mass, the congregation of St. Joseph Cathedral hold candles to represent the light Jesus brings into the darkness of our lives. Photo by Nicole Dzimira.
Easter is a time for rebirth and renewal. Outside we see the warmth of spring coming in and allowing flowers and trees to bloom again. Inside the church, people find a rebirth into the Catholic faith.
The Easter Vigil Mass is the time when catechumens – adults who make the decision to become Catholic – join the Church through the sacraments of initiation, which include baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
For much of the first thousand years of the Catholic Church, people were confirmed immediately after baptism and then received Communion at the same liturgy. For various reasons, the reception of these sacraments were split up and celebrated at different liturgies.
Following the Second Vatican Council, the decision was made to restore the catechumenate, the initiation process of the early Church. Baptism, confirmation and Eucharist were again received in that order at one liturgy for those joining the faith.
Peace, love, hope and welcoming is how several catechumens describe the Catholic Church just for the Easter vigil.
“I feel peaceful being here, learning more, growing my faith. It brings me peace,” said Robin Deubler, who began attending Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral two years ago.
Deubler grew up without religion in her family. She saw her friends go to their respective churches and always felt a pull to follow them. It was after attending a Jesuit graduate program that she began to attended Catholic services and developed a desire to be a member of the Church.
Some friends have questioned why she would choose to join the Church during a gloomy period in the history of the Buffalo Diocese, but she has found it to be the exact right time for her.
“I didn’t realize until the past two weeks just how it has changed me,” she said. “My father is extremely sick and I feel I am handling the stress of daily life so much better through prayer.”
Reflecting on how learning about the faith through RCIA classes and prayer, she saw a change in her life. “I realized how much more gratitude I have in life. I keep coming back to that peaceful feeling I have being part of the Catholic Church.”
Heather Stefan had attended other churches over the years, but never felt as welcomed as she did walking through the doors of St. Gregory the Great Church in Williamsville.
“When I came here, I felt super welcomed,“ she said. “Everything seemed to be falling into place. It still took me about four years to be able to take that jump (to join), but I would say, to be immersed in the Catholic community for four years has caused me to do that. Also, during quarantine last year, just being alone in your thoughts for a really long time, everything keeps going, that also helped lead me to the faith.”
She is joining the Church with the support of her fiancé and his family.
“I think it will make me a more fulfilled person to a certain extent. I’ve always felt there was something missing in my life. So, officially becoming part of the Catholic Church, I hope that fills void that’s there,” she said.
When asked to describe the faith in a few words, Aaren Arnold quickly says “Hope.”
“During Covid time, I was at one fo the worst points in my life,” he said. “During that time I grew the closest to God,” he recalled. “I heard a homily when everything else was closed, and Father had said come to the church, and the church is always open, we’re never closed. From that homily, I came for adoration. At adoration, I prayed my hardest and ever since I’ve been here. It’s never been the same.”
He looks forward to receiving Communion and going to reconciliation, realizing that becoming Catholic is more than attending Mass on Sundays.
“It’s a total whole new way of life,” he said. “You have to really think. You can’t just go with the status quo. You really have to think, ‘Would this insult Jesus by doing X, Y and Z?’”
He now plans to take a larger role in the faith by joining the Knights of Columbus, as well as working with St. Greg’s youth ministry and RCIA team.
Alison McGurty compares joining the faith as joining a family.
“For me, the Catholic faith is mostly about hope and love and being part of a family, really, a faith family,” she said.
She already belongs to a Catholic family. Her husband and children were all brought up in the faith. She describes her parents as “non-practicing.” Though she had planned to join the Church someday, the decision to follow through came when she saw her husband relying on his faith during a time of personal tragedy.
“When our youngest child was born, she was critically ill for a long time. Even though we had talked about validating the marriage for a long time, what I saw was, when our daughter was sick, my husband was more able to rely on his faith and to really have that center around God. I was struck by that and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Parishes across the diocese welcomed its new members during a special and, often long, Mass on Saturday, April 3.