Washington DC, Mar 16, 2008 / 04:04 pm (CNA).- Tens of thousands of people around the United States will be received into the Catholic Church in less than a week at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, March 22. 

The Easter Vigil is the most important ceremony of the church year. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and is also the time when catechumens, those who come from a non-Christian background, are baptized, confirmed, and receive Holy Communion. 

Prior to becoming members of the Catholic Church, potential converts will usually have undergone the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a roughly six month course on Catholicism. 

While most are adults, some children will be received into the Church along with their families.

The Diocese of Orange, California will baptize more than 650 catechumens and receive more than 500 into full communion.  The Diocese of Austin reports that 314 catechumens and 522 candidates (those who are already validly baptized in another church) will be received into the Church this Easter.

In the Archdiocese of Detroit, 589 catechumens will be baptized and 497 candidates will enter the Church.  In addition, 289 baptized Catholics will receive Confirmation and Holy Communion.

In Ohio, 437 catechumens will be baptized, while 541 candidates will be received into the Church in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  The Diocese of Cleveland reports 327 catechumens and 526 candidates will receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil.

Smaller dioceses are also attracting converts.  Birmingham, Alabama, a mission diocese, reports 97 catechumens and 306 candidates.  The Diocese of Colorado Springs reports 119 catechumens and 192 candidates, while the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia will receive 267 candidates and baptize 84 catechumens, including a young quadriplegic man.

Mark Ma, one catechumen, is a sophomore economics major at the University of Virginia.  Born in Beijing to agnostic parents, he was a self-described “hard-line atheist” through high school.  He started talking to Christians of different denominations and reading Christian works, eventually beginning to pray.  After discernment and historical research, he decided to convert to Catholicism.

Steven Parceluzzi, a 41-year-old resident of the Tucson area, met a Catholic hospital chaplain during his stay at a hospital last year.  The chaplain, Father Bill Kohler, told Parceluzzi he recognized the struggle he faced and that the priest and the parish community would be there to support him if he needed them.  Parceluzzi entered the RCIA program at St. Cyril of Alexandria parish.  His wife, Terri, his mother, Nina, and his niece, Jennifer, later joined him in embracing the faith.

Last year almost 64,500 adults in the United States were baptized into the Church, while another 93,000 came into full communion.

source URL: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=12083