On Easter Sunday, teens and adults of different backgrounds will complete their sacraments of initiation with First Communion and Confirmation, becoming full members of the Catholic Church.
In preparation, retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq met with these candidates March 9 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Flatlands for the Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion. The congregation, made up of candidates, sponsors and supporters filled the church.
“I’m delighted to see so many of you,” Bishop Sansaricq said during the ceremony at St. Thomas. “Jesus only spent three years in active ministry and now He asks people like you to continue His work.”
A total of 450 candidates from 71 parishes in the diocese registered to attend the rite, which was also offered simultaneously at St. Thomas, the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston and St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in Jamaica.
The candidates reflected the diversity of the diocese, but they had two key factors in common. They have all been baptized in a way recognized by the Catholic Church but not necessarily within the Catholic Church and they all have a desire to grow closer to and serve Jesus.
Once Andre Florent from Holy Cross, Flatbush, finally understood what God was asking of him, he decided to waste no time. He reflected upon his journey after the rite at St. Thomas.
Florent, 27, was baptized Catholic and went to Catholic school. But he said, whenever he was involved in anything religious, he was just going through the motions. But his pastor, Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, never lost faith in the young man.
“I was a knuckle head and he helped guide me,” Florent said.
Florent made it a point to never lose touch with the monsignor, even if it meant just a short communication once a year.
Then Msgr. Malagreca made an offer, Florent said, he could simply not refuse.
“I can’t really say ‘no’ to him,” Florent said, “since he never said ‘no’ to me.”
Someone gave up a place for the World Youth Day 2019 in Panama and Msgr. Malagreca asked Florent to join his group.
In Panama, Florent said he found peace.
“When I let go of my stubbornness, it was easy for God to work,” he said.
After the pilgrimage, Florent knew what he had to do. Two months later, he attested his desire to get involved with the Church.
For Florent’s fellow parishioner, Katina Robinson, it was her daughter and her daughter’s school that kindled the desire to join the Church.
Robinson was baptized Anglican in the Caribbean, but when she moved to the U.S., she had trouble finding the same sense of Christian community she knew back home.
She wanted her daughter, Randi, to know the love of Christ so she enrolled her in Catholic school. Robinson became involved in the school and by extension, the Church. Soon she realized she had found the community she was looking for.
Robinson had not baptized her daughter, but now realized what she should do.
“She needs to be part of this family,” Robinson said of her daughter who is now six-years-old. “It’s about time to make it official.”
They are now both preparing to receive sacraments.
Octavio Escobar, from St. Rosalia-Regina Pacis, Bensohurst, credited his mother’s prayers for his conversion to change from a life focused on what the secular world deemed important.
He said it was his mother’s quiet work of helping the Church and praying to God that helped soften his heart and become a better husband and father to his three children. He also said that turbulence in life can help one talk to God. And in sincere prayer, God always listens to His children and helps heal His children, physically and spiritually.
Escobar’s mother, Juana Rendon, came to support her son. She was overjoyed because her great hope and desire for her son to come closer to God had been fulfilled.
“God listens to the prayers of a mother,” Rendon said. However, she added, she cannot take too much credit for what occurred.
“All I did was ask God. He (my son) was the one who said ‘yes.’”
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