4/18/12 | 722 views
Blessings Flow for Mother and Son at Easter Vigil
Jennifer Shaw works two jobs. During the day she does billing for a local fuel oil company in Wappingers Falls. At night, mostly on weekends, she is a waitress at a local Perkins restaurant. A single mom, she is also raising a teenage son on her own.
There hasn’t been much time in her life for other pursuits, she acknowledges. But last autumn she decided to do something she had been contemplating for years. She entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Mary’s parish in Wappingers Falls. During the Easter Vigil Mass April 7, she was initiated into the Catholic faith in a rare double baptism, along with her 14-year-old son, Danté. She was then confirmed and received her first Communion. Danté still must complete courses before he is confirmed and receives his first Communion.
“I always had the desire, and especially when my son was born,” Ms. Shaw, 35, told CNY during a recent interview in the rectory at the St. Mary’s, “But working two jobs and being busy all the time, I never had the time.”
“I have a lot of friends who go to church, too, and I kind of felt lost, like I wanted to know more,” she said. “And then there’s been things in my life that I’ve gone through that I felt I needed to have a church in my life.”
Ironically, it was a drop in business at the restaurant and the resulting loss of hours that permitted her to carve out just enough time to be able to take the important step.
A mother being baptized along with her son is rare. In fact, Msgr. Francis Bellew, St. Mary’s pastor, can’t remember another occasion in his experience. And a special accommodation was made to allow it to happen.
“We would normally not baptize someone that age without instruction,” explained Msgr. Bellew, who is also the regional vicar of Dutchess County. “But we thought the mother was really desirous of his being baptized, probably for sentimental reasons, and we thought, no harm, since he’s going to be with us. She and he have been very regular to church on Sundays since she started instruction. She’s a very genuine person.”
Ms. Shaw was raised by a mother, whom she described as a “strict” Catholic. But somehow in the hurly-burly of life she had never managed to have her child baptized. Ms. Shaw said that she had been intrigued by the faith, but she felt that as an unbaptized person she had no business even entering a church. Ms. Shaw said she always believed in God, but there were times too when her faith was shaken. “I did have doubts,” she said. “I mean I believed in God, but then some things would happen in my life and I wasn’t so sure...”
When she did take the big step through St. Mary’s mahogany doors last October, she found a welcoming community of faith and immediately felt among family. She was part of a class of seven, which met on Tuesday evenings. There was a lot to learn, the sacraments, the Commandments and how they are lived out, the Creed. Her knowledge of the faith was unformed but she was eager to learn and soon became one of the most engaged students in the class.
“I enjoyed it. I learned a lot,” she said. “I’m still learning. But I liked how close we got as a group.”
“I usually tell people in the early part of RCIA that they will become the best informed Catholics in the Church,” Msgr. Bellew added with a smile.
The Easter Vigil is one of the most beautiful ceremonies in the Church, one that some Catholics have never seen. Mass begins in the evening before Easter Sunday with the lights down, only candles lighting the gloom, symbolizing the light that shines in the darkness. Lightness gathers like the rising sun of Easter as the Mass builds towards the emotional climax when the catechumens gather with their sponsors, families and friends around the baptismal font to receive the waters that mark them as Christ’s own.
Ms. Shaw’s best friend, Laura Fleming, and her husband, Jim, did double duty, Laura as Ms. Shaw’s sponsor and both as Danté’s godparents. For Ms. Shaw the experience was one she will never forget.
“It was very emotional. I felt like it was a new beginning. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life,” she said. “It is one of the best things I’ve ever done, especially with my son. We’re very close and I wanted to do it with him so we could share the experience together. I was nervous, but excited and proud of myself too for doing it and proud of my son.”
And one final blessing awaited Ms. Shaw when she and Danté got home. Her proud mom had been there at the vigil Mass, and so had her aunt, but they had not been on speaking terms for some time.
“My aunt texted me saying two things had come out of church tonight,” she recalled. “You and Danté getting baptized, and me getting my sister back.”
Browse our archive of photos