Archdiocese Welcomes 1,470 Entering Church at Easter Vigil
By MARY ANN POUST AND RON LAJOIE
Chris Sheridan
CANDIDATES – Father Francis Skelly, C.Ss.R., pastor of Immaculate Conception parish on East 151st Street in the Bronx, talks to 19 of his parishioners, who look forward to being in full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil, and their sponsors outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where they were welcomed by Cardinal Dolan at a ceremony March 4.

The archdiocese rolled out the welcome the past two weekends for 1,470 people who will be fully received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil April 7.

On Feb. 26 the Church welcomed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral 655 who will be baptized, confirmed and receive first Communion. The catechumens, as they are known, were accompanied by their sponsors and by family members. They came from more than 80 parishes around the archdiocese to publicly declare their commitment to the faith and to sign the Book of the Elect—a registry of names that’s part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

And this past Sunday, 815 candidates, those who had either already been baptized into the church as infants but did not practice or those baptized into other Christian denominations who are now seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, were welcomed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral as well as at three other parish churches across the archdiocese.

At St. Patrick’s, 583 candidates participated in the Rite of Calling to Continuing Conversion while 65 more participated at Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown, 109 at Blessed Kateri Church in LaGrangeville and 58 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Staten Island.

Cardinal Dolan presided at St. Patrick’s while Auxiliary Bishop Josu Iriondo, vicar for Hispanic Affairs, presided at Transfiguration; Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, epispocal vicar of Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Northern Westchester/Putnam, at Blessed Kateri; and Auxiliary Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, at Our Lady Star of the Sea. The candidates will receive confirmation and the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.

“This is one of the happiest Sundays of the year,” declared Cardinal Dolan during the Rite of Election ceremony Feb. 26, “because I get to look out and see people who are eager and happy to become Catholics and enter the Church—and I thank you for the example.”

He continued that welcoming theme with the candidates on Sunday, telling them that, like the disciples at Jesus’ Transfiguration in that day’s Gospel, they too could expect to be dazzled at Easter by Christ’s full radiance revealed in Communion.

“I am looking out at people who have known Jesus for quite a while,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Some of you were raised in different Christian denominations, some of you were baptized Catholics ... at least you heard of Jesus. You know him the way Peter, James and John knew him. But now, through the RCIA, through your full communion with the Church at Easter, you will see him glorious and radiant as he is transfigured before you.”

The archdiocesan Catechetical Office oversees the RCIA program, which is conducted in parishes for persons wishing to enter the Church.

At the Rite of Election, the strongest showing came from the parishes that serve the lower Manhattan-Chinatown area, with the 263 catechumens from the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral accounting for more than one-third of the total. Of them, 240 were Chinese-speakers, mainly young immigrants who come from throughout the metropolitan area.

Msgr. Donald Sakano, the pastor, credits the ministry of Father Andrew Thi, a Chinese-born priest who’s been a fixture at the parish for 25 years.

“He’s a tireless worker for the Lord and the Church,” Msgr. Sakano said. “People are drawn to him, as children are to a father.”

Transfiguration parish, on Mott Street in the heart of Chinatown, also had a large contingent. Chao Chao Lin, a 14-year-old junior high school student who was one of the few English speakers, has been in the United States for just one year.

He’s entering the Church, he said shyly, because “I feel that when I do something wrong, God will forgive me and I will feel better.”

The group from another lower Manhattan parish, St. Joseph’s of Greenwich Village, appeared to be made up mainly of young professionals and college students.

Robert De Cosimo, 28, who grew up in a Protestant family in Tennessee and now works for a New York investment bank, said he’s entering the Church because he’s engaged to a Catholic woman and “we wanted to share the same faith, especially with having children in the future—that’s important.”

Emma Dunlap, 21, a student at the New School, said she grew up in an atheist household upstate but had a “series of profound religious experiences” in connection with the death of her grandfather. She began attending Mass at St. Joseph’s, she said, at the recommendation of a parishioner-friend and made the decision to formally enter the Church.

“I couldn’t be happier,” she said.

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