On this Easter weekend, I want to offer all of the people who entered church at the Easter Vigil my heartfelt congratulations. Welcome. We need you.
That goes for the new Christians — the adults who bent over the baptismal font and got their hair all wet in front of everybody as they were baptized — as well as those baptized in other churches and those who already were Catholic but made the choice to complete their sacraments of initiation.
I invite all the cradle Catholics to join me in seeking out the newcomers among us. Say hello, if you haven’t already. Ask if they want to join your Bible study or prayer group or ministry. Once you strike up a conversation, ask them why they did it. Why did they make the commitment to become a part of the church, the mystical Body of Christ?
It might seem like a personal question, especially for Catholics, who are widely believed to be reticent about their faith. But part of my job is asking people personal questions, and after years of working in Catholic media, I can say that Catholics are usually more than willing to share their faith stories. You just have to ask.
It’s no secret that young people are walking away from the church and organized religion in general in large numbers. Or that many Catholics’ practice of the faith is something that happens only sporadically.
So who are these people? The ones who attend classes for months, or sometimes years, and came to Mass without being able to receive Communion, and stood up in front of their families and loved ones and said “I believe.”
Over the years, I’ve talked to parents who came into communion with the church after making the decision to send their children to Catholic schools. In one family, the two sons were baptized months before their mother. Their father, baptized but non-practicing since childhood, received his first Communion and confirmation on the same day as his wife. They came for the education and stayed for the evangelization.
I’ve spoken with young adults, 20-somethings in academia who took it seriously when their parents told them they wanted to choose their own church. So they read books and studied and talked to people and then, rather than making a decision based on a list of pros and cons, fell in love with the Eucharist.
There are those who appreciate the universal nature of the church, with the same Mass being celebrated every day all over the world, and some who found peace when they entered a church to pray and many who wanted to join their spouses in the church. There was even one who always thought he was a baptized Catholic, until he went looking for a baptismal certificate.
If you came into the church this year or decades ago, welcome. Thank you for sharing your faith with us, and trusting us to share ours with you.