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More than 500 to enter faith at Easter

April 3, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

More than 500 people are expected to enter the Catholic Church in the three counties of the Archdiocese of San Francisco at Easter Vigil this year, as tens of thousands enter the church across the country.

A total of 195 catechumens went through the Rite of Election, mandatory to become Catholic, and they are slated to be baptized at Easter Vigil, said Laura Bertone, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship. About 300 are expected to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, either as Catholics who are receiving confirmation and first Communion or entering from other Christian denominations, Bertone said.

Nationwide, about 100,000 people entered the Catholic Church in 2013, according to the 2014 Official Catholic Directory, the most recent year for which this data is available, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reported in a Holy Week press release. Of those, just under 40,000 were catechumens and were baptized, confirmed and received first Communion and nearly 67,000 were received into full communion with the Catholic Church.

At Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Redwood City, Rite of Christian Initiation director John Spotorno says he has four catechumens, two coming from another Christian faith and 11 people who were baptized Catholic and are seeking confirmation and first Communion. In addition two children, 11 years old, will also be baptized at Easter Vigil. Another 10 children, 7 to 12 years old, are being baptized on Easter Sunday, said Magdalena Hernandez, religious education coordinator.

Spotorno was an RCIA candidate himself about 15 years ago. He had been “raised on the fringe of Catholicism,” and connected with the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic community when his son, now an adult, was in the parish school’s kindergarten. He stayed to help with the team after receiving the sacraments and eventually was asked to take over, Spotorno said. “I find with RCIA, it’s not my time or the church’s time. It’s their time,” Spotorno said, noting that just as in a human relationship, the catechumens and candidates are in a growing relationship with God.

Among those who will receive the sacraments at Easter Vigil is Elena Villacorta, who was born into a Catholic family in El Salvador and migrated here when she was 4, and received first Communion. But then, Villacorta said, her mother and grandmother converted to another religion “hence all my Catholic pathways pretty much stopped.”

“When I met my husband, we were regulars in church, we wanted to get married in church, do everything right,” but she said they felt discouraged and ended up getting married by a justice of the peace. ”It wasn’t until our daughter was born that we went back to church, because we had something missing in our lives.”

Much later, after their daughter was enrolled in Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Villacorta found out about RCIA and finally enrolled in the fall. Her husband will be her sponsor when she is confirmed at Easter Vigil, Villacorta said.

“We want to teach and support our daughter, as well as each other and have that unity in faith that we have missing in our lives, this is why I am continuing to seek confirmation. It’s our base for our lives,” Villacorta said.

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