Diocesan News

Diocese of Brooklyn Welcomes 381 New Catholics During Easter Vigil

The moment Momna Younas became a Catholic. Bishop Brennan administers the sacrament of Baptism at the Easter Vigil. (Photos: Paula Katinas)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph was engulfed in darkness on the night of April 8, Holy Saturday, but not to worry. It would soon be filled with the light of Jesus Christ.

Standing at the entrance to the darkened co-cathedral in Prospect Heights, Bishop Robert Brennan oversaw the lighting of the Paschal candle, and from that candle, all of the other candles held aloft by members of the congregation were also slowly lit, row by row, bringing the glow of light and hope into the co-cathedral.

It was a sign of the light that Jesus brought into the world.

The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday is one of the most joyous celebrations of the year, not only because it recalls the hope and promise of the Resurrection, but because it’s a glorious night for the lucky few who were being baptized into the Catholic faith and for those who were receiving other sacraments.

One person was baptized and two other people received the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Confirmation at the co-cathedral on Saturday night.

It was a big night for Momna Younas, who bowed at the baptismal font and had the waters of baptism poured on her head by Bishop Robert Brennan. Earlier, she had confessed to feeling “a little nervous.”

To ease her nervousness, Bishop Brennan joked, “Momna asked how much water we use. I told her she needs to worry about the temperature of the water!”

When the moment came, Younas was ready. She went through her baptism without a trace of jitters and wore a serene smile when it was finished.

Younas came to Catholicism after a long journey of prayer and contemplation. Born and raised Muslim, she was devoted to her faith but found herself gravitating toward Catholicism as an adult. 

“I was searching for a deeper truth, asking what it is that God wants from us and how he wants us to live our lives,” she recalled.

Catholicism appealed to her, she said, because of its emphasis on love and forgiveness. “Love can transform the world. It is the only way to change the world and transform hearts,” she added. She started doing research into Catholicism, including spending time reading the Gospels.

Last year, after much soul-searching, Younas arrived at her decision to join the Catholic faith. “This was not an easy decision for me, and it’s not one that I made lightly,” she explained.

Her fiance, Constantine Gulmatico, who is Catholic, fully supported her and even attended the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (R.C.I.A.) classes with her at the co-cathedral.

She was already on her faith journey when they met, but when their relationship grew more serious, and they realized they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, they also knew that faith would be a big part of their lives.

The couple discussed the role faith would play in their future on long walks on the High Line, the elevated park in Manhattan, and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and they started attending Mass at the co-cathedral.

The entire congregation shared her joy at the Easter Vigil — not just emotionally but physically, too. When Bishop Brennan and Father Christopher Heanue (rector of the co-cathedral) processed around the co-cathedral sprinkling Holy Water on the congregation, they used water from the baptismal font.

The co-cathedral is bathed in candlelight at the start of the Easter Vigil.

The Easter Vigil is also a time for other newcomers. For on this night, those who had been baptized into other Christian faiths and who seek to become Catholic are given the Sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Confirmation.

Across the diocese, there were 164 catechumens from 36 parishes in Brooklyn and 217 from 39 parishes in Queens this year — for a total of 381, according to the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis.

Judy Gill grew up Anglican in Barbados and had wanted to convert to Catholicism since she came to live in the U.S. more than 50 years ago. “I liked the teachings,” she said. But life got in the way, and she was too busy to consider it.

However, she gravitated toward St. Francis of Assisi Church in Midtown Manhattan, where she started attending Mass and did a lot of praying. “I prayed all the time to St. Francis of Assisi,” she recalled.

Looking for a church closer to home, Gill started attending Mass at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Prospect Heights, which is part of the parish of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. Before long, she asked to enter the R.C.I.A. program.

During her R.C.I.A. preparation, she was given a rosary as a gift. The rosary contained a medal of St. Francis of Assisi. “I think this is so fitting,” she said, recalling how that particular saint paved the way for her to become a Catholic.

“This has been a long, long journey for me. But I am so happy to finally be here,” Gill said, holding the rosary in her hand.

Easter offers hope to everyone, Bishop Brennan said. With all of the tumult in the world today, it’s understandable that people would be searching for peace, he added. 

“How many are looking for the life that only He can give us? They are looking for Jesus without knowing his name. They are looking for Jesus seeking peace in their life, seeking meaning in their life,” he explained.

“Because Jesus Christ lives, none of us will ever be alone,” Bishop Brennan added.

Click here for more information on the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.) program.