Diocese to welcome over 700 new Catholics at Easter
By Mary P. Walker
With great joy, Bishop Joe Vásquez presided over the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion as the Diocese of Austin prepares to welcome 736 new Catholics this Easter. These rites usher in a time of intense prayer and preparation, leading to the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.
Due to the large number of participants and the geographic size of the diocese, the rites were celebrated three times: Feb. 21 at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in College Station, and twice Feb. 22 at St. John Vianney Parish in Round Rock.
For catechumens, those who are not baptized, the Rite of Election affirms their readiness for baptism during the Easter Vigil and their desire to become fully initiated Christians through confirmation and Holy Eucharist. During the rite, Father Michael O’Connor, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, presented the catechumens to the bishop. Their godparents testified that the catechumens have faithfully demonstrated their commitment by prayer, listening to God’s word and service. From this point on, the catechumens are known as the “elect” because God chose them for the Easter sacraments.
Those baptized in other Christian traditions are called candidates, and the Call to Continuing Conversion acknowledges their oneness with Catholics through baptism and their desire to join the Catholic Church by making a profession of faith. At the rite, their sponsors testified to their readiness to complete their Christian initiation through the sacraments of confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
During his homily, Bishop Vásquez reminded the congregation that we live in a society where many of our desires can be satisfied. As sin continues to multiply, we lose touch with our need for salvation.
“God has to save humanity from itself. If God did not intervene, it would be disastrous for humanity,” the bishop said. By seeking the sacraments, the elect and candidates show their desire for salvation and bless the church with this reminder.
For Wyatt Lautzenheiser of St. Joseph Parish in Dime Box, preparing for his upcoming baptism awakened a longing in his heart to seek this salvation by becoming a better person. His wife is Catholic, and he had thought about joining the church for a number of years. However, his job as a petroleum engineer required considerable travel at short notice. Because he could not commit to regularly attending the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adult (RCIA) meetings, he did not pursue becoming Catholic.
His son’s birth motivated him. He said, “I have to be baptized. I want my son to grow up in the Catholic faith and in a Catholic family.” Lautzenheiser expressed his appreciation for Ida Schuman, the parish’s RCIA director and his godmother, for helping him participate in the RCIA process in a way that did not conflict with his job responsibilities. Now he looks forward to the Easter Vigil and sharing the faith of his family as a fully initiated Catholic.
Friends, family members and the beauty of the Mass brought Connor Smith of St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station to the Catholic Church. Although he grew up attending an Episcopal church, his best friend in middle school introduced him to Catholicism. On Saturday evenings, he went to Mass with his friend, and then went to Episcopal services with his family on Sunday.
While he noticed many similarities in the liturgies, he said, “Being at the Catholic Mass felt like the fullness of what liturgy should be.”
Influenced by an older brother and sister who had become Catholic, Smith decided that college was a time for him to learn more about the faith. He credits his sister, Brooke Hausmann, for answering many of his questions and for “making” him buy the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” to address the questions that she could not answer. He also praised the RCIA process for helping him understand and articulate what the Catholic Church teaches.
“I’m looking forward to being able to receive Holy Communion, and am really excited to be a full member of the church,” Smith said.
The Mass also first sparked the interest of Moriah Lampo of St. Anthony Parish in Bryan. While growing up, her family did not attend church. However, she went to Baptist services with friends and was baptized. In high school, she attended Mass with her Catholic boyfriend. She noticed that while each Baptist church independently organized services, the Catholic liturgy was consistent, regardless of which church she attended.
“The universality of the Catholic Church attracted me. Wherever you go to Mass, the readings are the same and you know what to expect in the liturgy. This makes me feel part of a community,” Lampo said.
When she married her husband, Lampo connected with a family that can look back to four generations of Catholicism at St. Anthony Parish. The desire to receive the Eucharist, join the family in faith, and share this faith completely with her 2-year old son motivated Lampo to begin the RCIA process.
When God called Lautzenheiser, Connor, Lampo and the other elect and candidates to Catholicism, he depended on faithful Catholics to share their faith by love, example, liturgy, invitation and instruction. Bishop Vásquez expressed his appreciation to all who help enrich the church through new members.