Diocesan News

Church Has Special Welcome For Children to Be Baptized

The young catechumens stood in front of their parents, godparents and church assembly to declare their desire to be baptized into the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday. They represented 26 parishes, with the largest numbers coming from immigrant families at St. Bartholomew, Elmhurst; St. Michael, Flushing; and St. Sebastian, Woodside. (Photos: Melissa Enaje)
Catechumens from Most Holy Trinity - St. Mary parish, Williamsburg.
 Lent is a period of preparation marked by prayer, study, and spiritual direction for the Elect, and prayers for them by the parish communities.
Cathechumens from Most Precious Blood, Long Island City.
Catechumens and their sponsors from Most Precious Blood, Long Island City.
Catechumens from St. Joachim and Anne, Queens Village.
Parents, sponsors, catechists and catechumens from St. Bartholomew, Elmhurst.
Father Jorge and the catechumens from St.Brigid, Bushwick.
Sharing their time and talents were members of the children's choir from Our Lady of Grace, Howard Beach.
Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros formally greeted each catechumen at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, Downtown Brooklyn, Feb. 17. He hoped the children, their parents, godparents and catechists may be living examples of the Gospel.
Bishop Cisneros delivers a heartfelt homily.
The catechumens stand next to their parents and sponsors who are responsible for their full transition into the Catholic Church.
Sponsors pray over their catechumens during one part of the Rite of the Election.
Learning about their new faith is just one part of their journey to full initiation.
The names of the young elect are presented to Bishop Cisneros in front of the entire assembly, symbolizing the acceptance of the elect's transition into their next rite.

Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros formally accepted the names of more than 80 children who are preparing to be baptized into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.

The ceremony with the bishop – the Rite of Election for Children of Catechetical Age – was held Feb. 17 at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn.

In his bilingual homily, Bishop Cisneros referenced the Winter Olympics and related the young catechumens to holy athletes who signed up to participate fully in the life of the Church. He praised their preparation, dedication and hard work.

“As I come to celebrate with you the Rite of Election, I realize that you who are to receive the sacraments are very much like the athletes that I spoke about,” said Bishop Cisneros. “With the help of your parents, sponsors and teachers, you too have a vision, a look at the future, a desire to be God’s children, a hope for a future in heaven and the satisfaction of life lived to the fullest.”

Members of the children’s choir from Our Lady of Grace, Howard Beach, provided the songs and sounds for the Rite of Election. (Photo: Melissa Enaje)

For the past three years, the young catechumens, ranging from third through eighth grade, have been learning what it means to be a member of a universal Church through the process of understanding their faith to know, love and serve the Lord.

“Today is a joyful day,” said Bishop Cisneros, “not as joyful as Easter, but nevertheless joyful because you are looking forward to Easter when some of you will receive the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.”

Most of the young catechumens sitting in the pews would receive all three sacraments at the Easter Vigil. The three-year preparation period is meant to aid each child’s unique journey leading to his or her Christian initiation.

Directing Hearts Toward God

According to liturgy training publication, the “Guide to Adapting the RCIA for Children,” while the catechumenate period is designed for religious instruction, it also directs the child’s heart toward God through a timely process fostering participation in the liturgy, inspiring apostolic activity that nurtures a life completely in accord with the spirit of Christ.

The diocese’s executive director of the School of Evangelization, Theodore J. Musco, said the reason behind the bundled sacraments was because the Church specifically asked that an unbaptized child over the age of seven should receive Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation together.

“It certainly is the responsibility of their parents and their brothers and sisters to help them especially as they get closer to the Easter Vigil to really begin to acknowledge the importance of the stuff that they’re about to take,” added Musco, “and to realize that God is blessing them in a special way.”

While he reiterated the necessity for the Catholic community to support its catechumens, Musco said he was pleased with the number of children the diocese will present at Easter.

“The Spirit’s working very well in Brooklyn and Queens,” he said, “so we want to continue to pray for them, but also for the rest of the Church that we all remember how important it is to express the joy of our encounters with Christ so that others will see that and want to be part of the Church.”

After the names were presented to Bishop Cisneros, he invited the newly-elect to kneel while the parents and godparents put their hands on their child’s shoulder for intercessory prayer. United as one, together they prayed that the children would learn to love the Church and proudly profess their beliefs.

Ziyi Tao, third from left, stands next to his sponsors and the director of religious education at Our Lady of the Angelus, Rego Park. He shared his hopes and challenges during his journey to full initiation into the Catholic Church.

For 15-year-old Ziyi Tao, the desire to learn about God and this new faith during the catechumenal process at Our Lady of the Angelus, Rego Park, has been like a two-edged sword. He hoped by Easter he will have more strength to believe and pursue.

“It’s hard to understand sometimes,” said Tao, “but you just have to take a leap of faith, first of all, because we know we can’t understand everything. But we can’t lie to ourselves about what’s the truth even though we can’t understand it. You have to still believe sometimes and hopefully, one day, it will be revealed and we will understand everything. Hopefully, one day that happens.”

Standing beside him proudly were two ladies from the Queens church – one was his sponsor and another was the director of religious education. His sponsor Kresentia Silaban, brought her entire family to the Brooklyn basilica as a form of support.

“It’s amazing because I can present him here,” said Silaban. “I can bring him here and he will be baptized on Easter Vigil. We’re so happy.”

That afternoon more than 20 parishes from around the diocese participated in the Rite of Election, including the children’s choir from Our Lady of Grace, Howard Beach.

For fourth-grader Gabriella Bajor, expressing her joy for others to see and hear comes in the form of singing. She had special advice for her peers wanting to enter the church: Be sure to listen.