Catholic Free Press

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  • Apr
  • 27

Hundreds find their way in to the Church

Posted By April 27, 2017 | 3:46 pm | Featured Article #1
Father Clements confirms men and women at the Easter Vigil.
TANYA CONNOR | CFP
Father Clements confirms men and women at the Easter Vigil. TANYA CONNOR | CFP

By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press

Family – present and future – played a prominant role in bringing people to Church this Easter. To be initiated into the life of the Church, that is.
Prayer and teachers also left their mark.
These influences surfaced repeatedly in the stories of people at Our Lady of Vilna Parish in Worcester and Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Winchendon.
Each parish had several people receiving one or more of the sacraments of initiation – baptism, first Communion and Confirmation – at the Easter Vigil Mass Saturday. Most had prepared for the sacraments in classes which were part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Our Lady of Vilna Parish
Michael Bui, 28, said his family is Buddhist, but he never considered himself Buddhist. He believed in a higher power and in treating people nicely.
His Catholic fiancée suggested he attend Our Lady of Vilna’s RCIA classes, he said. They were in Vietnamese, and he grew up in Worcester, so the pastor, Father Peter Tam M. Bui, taught him in English.
“He was good,” he said of the priest. “And my faith – it grew. My belief in God grew. Not even halfway through the class I believed I wanted to convert and be a Catholic,” because of the message presented and the kingdom of heaven.
“It lifted me up,” he said. “And now I have someone to pray to for my stressful times. I have someone to thank for all the good things that happen to me.”
God and prayer were not new to Ryan Nguyen, 57.
“I love Jesus,” he said. “Every day I pray,” and then things are easier. “I believe in Jesus, so I pray.”

Those who were initiated at Our Lady of Vilna Parish, Worcester on Easter Vigil. Photo by TANYA CONNOR | CFP

Those who were initiated at Our Lady of Vilna Parish, Worcester on Easter Vigil.
Photo by TANYA CONNOR | CFP

With translation help, he talked about giving his life to Jesus, reading the Bible and being helped by a Lutheran pastor in Vietnam.
He said his wife and her family are Catholic. After they moved to Worcester he went to Catholic churches – St. John’s, and now Our Lady of Vilna.
Quynh Anh Le, 32, said she’s marrying a Catholic, and his family wanted her to be Catholic.
That’s “better for our kids – because when we raise our kids we will have the same vision,” she said.
A Buddhist, she joined the RCIA class. The teacher, Ngon Phan, talked about prayer.
She prayed to God and the Blessed Mother about her health problems, experienced their presence, and believes they guided her to the right doctor, she said.
“I think group praying is very powerful,” said Hannah Huynh, 35. She said she grew up with a Catholic aunt in Vietnam, and hung out at a Catholic Church nearby. She didn’t dare go inside, but she saw the statue of the Virgin Mary outside and felt a connection with her.
Wanting to learn about God after coming to the United States, she found a Lutheran church. So becoming Catholic is an easy transition for her, she said.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish
Amy Ethier said her Catholic husband wanted their son baptized at Immaculate Heart of Mary. They met the pastor, Father Michael J. Clements, who taught the RCIA class she joined.
“He made it fun and interesting,” she said. “He’s very passionate about the faith, about teaching us, as new people coming in.”
She wasn’t totally new to the Church.
“My parents let us decide for ourselves,” she said. “However, they sent us to parochial schools. So I kind of almost feel like I was raised Catholic.” But she didn’t attend Church consistently.
Saturday she received the sacraments of initiation.
“Now our whole family’s Catholic,” she rejoiced.
Angela Tonet said she’s always found it such an amazing journey to be part of the Catholic Church, where “you become a family.” She wants to give that to her fiancé and children.
She said she brought her fiancé, John Bernard, to Church, and he liked it.
Mr. Bernard said he was baptized as a baby, but his parents stopped taking him and his siblings to church when he was about 1 year old. Comparing his fiancée’s childhood to his own, he decides the Church helped her understand better what to do with her life.
Asked what brought him to the Catholic Church, Gary Stevens responded, “My wife.”
“Our children are raised Catholic and I’ve been praying for him to find his faith,” said Lori Stevens. She said it was significant that he took this step now, as their 23rd wedding anniversary fell on Easter this year.
“She was an inspiration to me,” he said.
Receiving sacraments was also a family affair for four young women. Courtney and Chelsea Simmers-Swanson, sisters who’d been baptized, completed their initiation.
“I was adopted into this family,” said their sister Clarissa Simmers-Swanson, who received all three sacraments. “When I was adopted, I started going to church with them. It’s part of my life now; it’s changed me for the better.”
Their cousin, Lisa Williams, brought up Catholic, was confirmed.
Brothers Ethan Girouard, 12, and Brendan Girouard, 9, were baptized Saturday, and Ethan received his first Communion at the Vigil.

He said their mother mentioned sacramental preparation and he decided to give it a try.
Their mother, Ashley Girouard, a Catholic, said their father, now deceased, wanted them to make their own choice.
“It’s really fun to be part of the faith” and learn about God, Brendan said.
The fun part is Father Clements, Ethan said.

The pastor made the RCIA class fun and helped participants, said Gerard Breau, who received sacraments with his wife, Brittany Breau.

Austin Cyganiewicz, a firefighter, said Father Clements is their chaplain.
“I mentioned that I thought that there was something missing” in life, he said. He’d ride by a Catholic Church, but fear to go in. Father Clements “quickly enrolled me” in RCIA classes,” he said, adding, “I’m very happy to be involved.”

Tucker Friend said he didn’t come from a religious background, but his friends are Catholic. Kayla Mathieu, a member of Immaculate Heart, became his girlfriend.
“And then I met Father Mike, and that kind of like tied the bow,” he said.
“I never pushed it on him,” Ms. Mathieu said. “He came a couple times to Mass,” and the wedding of her sister, whose husband went through the RCIA last year. “I would like to get married in the Catholic Church too.”

Zachary and Sabrina Costa wanted to marry and raise their children in the Church; they wanted structure for their family. Baptized in another Christian church, she started attending Mass with him when they were dating. A week before Easter they were married. Saturday she joined the Catholic Church.

“I grew up Catholic,” said Charles Corts. Later, not living near a Catholic Church, he attended the United Church of Christ, he said. After moving to Massachusetts, he found Immaculate Heart through family and friends.
“I wanted to finish and be confirmed,” he said. He said this makes him feel more complete, more part of the Church.