Diverse Backgrounds, Faith Journeys Make Up New Catholics of 2012

March 30, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (March 30, 2012) – AnAlbanian couple, a banker, nine Hmong children and a meteorologist are amongthe thousands of new Catholics joining the U.S. Church at Easter.

All haveparticipated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a process ofconversion and study in the Catholic faith for catechumens and candidates cominginto full Communion with the Church. Catechumens, who have never been baptized,will receive baptism, confirmation and First Eucharist at the Holy SaturdayEaster Vigil. Candidates, who are already baptized in another Christiantradition whose baptism is recognized by the Catholic Church, will enter the Churchthrough a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and Eucharist.

Lule Prebibaj andher husband Ndoke are two of the 1,470 candidates and catechumens in theArchdiocese of New York. Their story differs from most. As youth baptized inAlbania when the country was under Communist rule, their baptisms wereliterally life-threatening. After coming to America the couple raised theirchildren in the faith, even though they themselves were never confirmed orreceived First Communion. That's all about to change.

"It's awonderful feeling to openly say who we are, and it's absolutely wonderful to beable to receive these sacraments. Better late than never, right?" said Prebibaj.

Another NewYorker, Tony Luu, was raised an atheist. As a child he often passedTransfiguration Church in Chinatown, but it wasn't until he met his fiancée andher family that he realized the power of religion and what the Church had tooffer.

"Catholicism haschanged my life in providing a different view and perspective on my everydayliving," he says. "I feel that the religion has calmed me down … and that is alot for someone who is from New York."

For some familiesit's "the more the merrier." This is true in St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul,Minnesota, where a family of nine Hmong children will be baptized on HolySaturday. Livia, Cesea, Vancelee andTeedo Vang approached their school's pastor with a simple request, "Father, wewould like to be baptized." They came to knowhim after the death of their mother, when the siblings were sent to live withtheir uncle, who wanted to ensure their solid upbringing and enrolled them in theparish school. The children spoke of the kindness of the St. Agnes community, theirengaging religion classes and powerful experiences at Mass as reasons forwanting baptism. They and fiveother siblings will be baptized at the Easter Vigil.

For onecatechumen at San Rafael Parish in San Diego, the driving force behindconversion was life experience. Married to a cradle Catholic, Andrea O'Haranever felt the need to convert. However, with age and experience, she realizedthat the challenges and accomplishments she's faced in life weren't by chance,but were presented to her by God.

"Being a motherand a wife gives me a greater purpose to lead a life filled with kindness,patience, honesty, responsibility and love," said O'Hara. "These charactertraits are hard to maintain by oneself, so I now look to my God and to myparish to help me lead the life that I was born to live."

O'Hara is among1,278 new Catholics in the San Diego diocese.

As ameteorologist, Houston resident Randall Wilson has earned a living predictingthings. One thing he never saw coming: his conversion to Catholicism. Born andraised a Baptist, Wilson first experienced Mass while on a date and foundhimself called back for more. To understand the faith better, he read books onCatholicism and found himself drawn to its deep traditions.

"The richnessand fullness of the Catholic Church isn't found anywhere else. Looking back, Isee how much was missing. I'm not even 100 percent Catholic yet, but I can'timagine my life without the holy Sacraments, without praying the holy rosary,without confessions and without the holy Eucharist," said Wilson.

FelichiaLaws, a 30-year-old new mother andfellow Lone Star State resident, grew up knowing about God, but it wasn't untilher daughter's baptism shortly after she began the RCIA process that shediscovered her own personal thirst for Christ.

"During mydaughter's baptism, my body was overcome by so much joy and fulfillment that itis very hard to put into words," said Laws. "I realized then that though I hadstarted the process for her, I also wanted the same baptism for me. Thedifferent rites of the RCIA helped me realize that I was really meant to bepart of the RCIA process and become one with God and the Catholic community."

ThisEaster Randall, Felichia and 2,391 others from the Archdiocese ofGalveston-Houston will join the Church.

Galveston-Houstonisn't only Texas diocese to welcome an impressive number of converts this year.The Archdiocese of San Antonio has 1,165 new Catholics, and the Diocese of FortWorth has 1,121 new members.

With 1,166 newmembers, the Archdiocese of Washington is welcoming its second largest numberof converts in a decade. For the past nine years more than 1,000 people in thearchdiocese have become full members of the Church at Easter. Other largedioceses boast similarly high numbers: St. Petersburg, Florida (963), St. Louis,Missouri (846), Portland, Oregon (783), and Rockville Centre, New York (689).

Smaller diocesesalso showcase the vitality of the Catholic Church with significant numbers: Rockford,Illinois (685), Palm Beach, Florida (607), Salt Lake City, Utah (487), GrandRapids, Michigan (475), Savannah, Georgia (444), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (443),Reno, Nevada (319), Providence, Rhode Island (250), Buffalo, New York (237),Dubuque, Iowa (231), Knoxville, Tennessee (229), Metuchen, New Jersey (228) andLafayette, Louisiana (213).

These numbersare based on participation in the Rite of Election and Call to ContinuingConversion, the final phase of the RCIA process celebrated at the beginning ofLent. Infant baptisms, which according to the 2011 Official Catholic Directory(OCD) totaled 830,673, are not included. The 2011 OCD also reported that therewere 43,335 adult baptisms and 72,859 people received into full communion.

Starting Monday,April 2, USCCB will blog conversion stories from around the country at: http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com.

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Keywords: Rite of Christian Initiationof Adults, RCIA, Easter, Easter Vigil, catechumen, candidate, convert, CatholicChurch, elect, conversion

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