“150,000 new or returning Catholics”
Hundreds of thousands expected to join Church during April 11 Easter Vigils
WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 2009 (http://calcatholic.com) - As many as 150,000 new or returning Catholics are expected to join the Catholic Church in 2009 in the United States. Many of them will do so at the Easter Vigil liturgies, April 11, in parishes across the country.
In some cases the numbers show the growth and vitality of the Catholic Church in places where it has traditionally been a small minority. For instance, the Archdiocese of Atlanta estimates that 513 catechumens and 2,195 candidates will join the ranks of the Archdiocese in 2009. About 1,800 of them will do so at Easter. These numbers do not include infant baptisms, which are recorded separately.
Catechumens are people who have never been baptized. Candidates are those who have received baptism in another Christian community and are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.
"The Archdiocese of Atlanta is in a part of the country with a large non-Catholic population, and has been blessed with an authentic dynamism during recent years, which is perhaps best expressed in our annual Eucharistic Congress, which draws some 30,000 participants,” said Father Theodore Book, director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Atlanta Archdiocese. “One of the many blessings that we have received from the Lord is the large number of individuals entering the Church."
And they are not the only ones. On the opposite side of the country, the Archdiocese of Seattle will welcome 736 catechumens and 506 candidates for a total of 1,242 new members; and the Diocese of San Diego will baptize 305 new members and welcome 920 other baptized Christians adding a total of 1,225 to its ranks.
In the mostly rural Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, the Cathedral of St. Paul could not handle all who are joining, 445 people in total, and their families for the Rite of Election. The rites were held in three different ceremonies, two at the Cathedral on the first Sunday of Lent, and another one in Huntsville the prior Saturday. Braving snow, some came from as far as 80 miles away to participate. The Rite of Election, usually celebrated at the beginning of Lent, marks the official countdown to the official initiation or admission into the Church.
Baptism also will have a special significance this year for Heidi Sierras of Ceres, near Modesto, along with her family, church sponsors and parish community. Sierras will be representing the people of North America at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and will be baptized by Pope Benedict XVI.