While Christians around the world continue to face persecution for their faith, large numbers of Americans continue to flock to the Catholic Church.
This Easter, parishes in Brooklyn and Queens will welcome almost 1,100 new members to their congregations. These men and women who wish to join the Church have been preparing with weekly lessons for the past several months through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.
Some wish to be baptized into the Church. They are known as catechumens. Others who already have been baptized, in the Church or another Christian denomination, are seeking to update their membership through reception of Communion and Confirmation. These are called candidates.
Last weekend, in two sessions at the former Bishop Ford H.S., Park Slope, they all came to be officially welcomed by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in a ceremony called the Rite of Election. The catechumens and candidates now enter a final period of intense preparation for the reception of the sacraments. The diocesan program is coordinated by Sister Alice Michael, S.U.S.C.
Both ceremonies were filled to capacity, as family members, sponsors and catechetical leaders wished to join in the ceremony.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, Sunset Park, which has an active outreach to Chinese immigrants, produced the largest numbers this year, with 30 catechumens and 35 candidates.
Not far behind was St. John Vianney, Flushing, a predominantly Chinese parish, with 54 people for baptism and one additional for the first sacraments.
St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, the Korean parish in Flushing, has 27 people asking to be baptized and two wanting to update their sacraments.
Blessed Sacrament in Cypress Hills, mostly a Spanish-speaking parish, is also worth noting, with 13 baptisms and 26 candidates for first sacraments.
St. Leo’s, Corona, another Hispanic parish, has nine catechumens and 47 candidates.
Offering words of advice, Bishop DiMarzio warned these soon-to-be members of the diocese, that the Devil will continue to tempt them, just as he did Jesus in the desert. He said the works of Satan include the 4 Ds: deception, division, diversion and discouragement.
He prayed for the perseverance and strength of the men and women as they enter their final stage of preparation for entrance into the Church.
“I see it as a rite of passage,” said Damian Omar Morris of St. Francis-St. Blaise parish, Brooklyn. “It was very important to me, to feel it as an identification, coming out of a Protestant background, coming to Catholicism.”
Many of the candidates began the process in order to update their sacraments and get married in the Church.
“But along the way, I learned about being closer to God and closer to my faith. Now, I’m doing this to become closer to God,” one woman told Currents the diocesan TV news show.
Ted Musco, diocesan director of faith formation, said that many times people think that great numbers are leaving the Church and are not aware of those joining.
“More and more people want to get involved,” said Musco.
“It’s God’s grace working,” concluded Bishop DiMarzio.
After Easter, Bishop DiMarzio will invite all the newest Catholics to a Mass that will celebrate their new status as members of the Church.