Almost 1,200 new Catholics entered the Church last weekend at Easter Vigil services throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was the main celebrant at St. Michael’s Church, Flushing, where he baptized 18 adults, confirmed those and 28 more and also led a profession of faith by more than 40 Anglicans who came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
The former Anglicans are now members of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter that was established by Pope Benedict XVI to assist Anglicans who wanted to join the Catholic community.
Not only did 45 Latino Anglicans, former members of St. George’s parish, join the Church, but on Easter morning five of their children were baptized.
Father John Vesey, pastor of St. Michael’s, says his congregation is happy to have these newest members. This weekend, on Divine Mercy Sunday, the parish will host a reception for its newest members following the 1:30 p.m. Mass.
The late Antonio Contreras, their Anglican pastor, was the person who was leading this communal journey to Catholicism. He was going to be ordained a Catholic priest but, unfortunately, he died last summer. Through the encouragement of Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Anglican bishop who heads the Personal Ordinariate in the U.S., and Father Vesey, the parishioners continued on their journey to full union.
[Photos by Ed Wilkinson]
The number of catechumens, candidates and former Anglicans at St. Michael’s represents the largest amount of converts to the Church from any one parish in the diocese this year. Father Vesey credits the Holy Spirit but is also quick to praise the work of his associates Father Peter Bai, a native of mainland China, and Father Jaime Hernandez, who is from Colombia, and pastoral associate, Sister Maureen Jessnik, R.S.M., who oversees the work of the RCIA in the parish.
“This has been the result of many weeks of preparation, prayer, reflection and living the Christian life,” said Sister Maureen.
“I feel totally different, anew, like I was born again, to be honest,” said Yenny Colon, who received her first sacraments that evening.
Despite the success in Flushing, Father Vesey says the neighborhood is ripe for even more evangelization because of the large number of Chinese and Hispanic immigrants coming to the area that also is showing great economic growth in the Main St. business district, where new banks are opening and most of the billboards are in Chinese.
At the Vigil, Father Vesey challenged the parish to raise the number of Chinese converts to 500 next Easter and the Hispanic community to recruit 1,000 more parishioners.
“You just do the work,” Bishop DiMarzio told Father Vesey. “The Holy Spirit will provide the numbers.”
Father Vesey has urged that parishioners financially support the work of the Church, pray and work for more home-grown vocations and stimulate youth ministry in the parish.
“This is a very pious, very good community,” adds Father Vesey.
Following the Vigil, Bishop DiMarzio met with a group of young parish leaders to encourage them to continue to build up the local Church.
With the Easter Vigil done, the Christian symbols of light piercing the darkness of a church, the bells ringing and alleluias being sung, loudly proclaimed in Flushing that Jesus had risen from the dead and it was Good News indeed.