By Tanya Connor
WORCESTER – The Easter Vigil at St. George Parish was a family affair.
At that Mass Saturday four teenagers received all three sacraments of initiation: baptism, Communion and confirmation. Three mothers received Communion and confirmation; mothers of three of the teens and the mother of a second-grader who will make her first Communion soon.
Those involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the preparation process for reception of these sacraments, spoke of family members bringing each other to this point, and parish and school families providing support.
“It’s like starting something new; it’s like a clean slate,” Matthew Carroll, 16, said before the Easter Vigil, at which he received the sacraments. His godmother was Julia Johnson, 20, with whose family he once lived. Her father was a lector.
Diane O’Neill credited her daughter Shawna, 16, with their reception of the sacraments.
“My mom is Catholic, but as kids we didn’t go to church,” said Mrs. O’Neill, who received her first Communion and confirmation Saturday. Shawna received all three sacraments.
Mrs. O’Neill said when Shawna was in seventh grade at St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School her father, Ryan O’Neill, almost died.
“St. Peter-Marian is a family,” Mrs. O’Neill said; people supported Shawna and gave her a religious medal. “She pinned it on him and made him wear it ’til he got better.” Now a sophomore there, Shawna lent the medal to a fellow student whose mother is sick.
“I noticed her starting to pray more,” Mrs. O’Neill said, recalling a time when the family saw a flipped-over car. “She was crying, telling us all we had to pray.” Her husband, who sought to help, learned the woman in the accident was OK, she said.
Shawna said religion class and Mass at school influenced her. She wanted to get closer to God, to become a Catholic, and be more involved.
“She came to me and told me she wanted to do this,” her mother said. “So we did it together. But it was her idea.”
When Shawna expressed this interest, “I asked my uncle for advice and he guided us in the right direction,” Mrs. O’Neill said. That uncle, Deacon Roy F. Briggs, who serves at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Worcester, returned to his home parish of St. George’s to be her sponsor.
“I was surprised when she asked me,” said Elena Cormier, Shawna’s godmother, a childhood classmate and St. Peter-Marian junior. “I’m so glad to be part of it.”
“I’m very glad for what they did,” said Shawna’s boyfriend, Patrick Gallant, a St. Peter-Marian sophomore from St. Aloysius-St. Jude Parish in Leicester.
Shawna’s 10-year-old sister Kaitlyn seemed glad too. There was talk of her attending RCIA gatherings, being baptized and receiving her first Communion.
“I want Daddy to do it” too, Kaitlyn said.
Mrs. O’Neill also talked of Shawna becoming godmother for Krissy, the 4-year-old they’re trying to adopt and have baptized.
Yvette Friberg, who received her first Communion and confirmation Saturday, wanted to be able to receive Communion with her second-grader, Anna, who is in St. George’s first Communion class, said Annie Doyle, her sponsor and an RCIA team catechist. The children are to make their first Communion in a couple weeks.
Mrs. Friberg and her husband, Eric, and Tina and Michael Mastrototaro, were married at St. George’s March 22, Mrs. Doyle said. (Mrs. Mastrototaro also received her first Communion and confirmation Saturday.) Their marriages had not been in the Catholic Church because they thought that was forbidden, since neither woman had made her first Communion or confirmation after being baptized Catholic, Mrs. Doyle said. The Mastrototaros and Mrs. Friberg also received the sacrament of penance, she said.
Mr. Mastrototaro said he’s been attending St. George’s, where their biological children received their sacraments. But Nicholas and Hannah Diaco, siblings they adopted, did not receive the sacraments.
“We always came on the holidays with my husband,” said Mrs. Mastrototaro. She said she’d been baptized at age 13 and was embarrassed that she had not received the other sacraments. She told their adopted children, “We’ll do it together; it will be a special bonding time for us.”
The smiles on the faces of Nicholas, 16, and Hannah, 14, who received all three sacraments Saturday, suggested this was indeed special to them. Their parents were excited too.
“I feel like I’m doing all my sacraments over again,” said Mr. Mastrototaro, who attended the RCIA gatherings with his family. His wife said the team made the experience better than she could have anticipated and it helped her faith become strong.
“And that’s what I had been longing for,” she said.
God’s presence is becoming manifest in them, Father Edward C. Niccolls, St. George’s pastor, said of those receiving sacraments, as he preached at the Easter Vigil.
“It’s just been a nice journey with them,” John Berger, who coordinated the RCIA, said of these people he and his team prepared for the sacraments.
“We really became like a family,” added JoAnn Nally, a catechist on the RCIA team, which formed last August after years without a full team.
Many people expressed interest in the RCIA, but hadn’t signed up when the team went for training, Mr. Berger and Ms. Nally said.
Mr. Berger, who had coordinated the RCIA elsewhere, said he told Father Niccolls about a homey room he used for the group. That night, Father Niccolls bought furniture for an RCIA room, and “we didn’t have people yet,” Mr. Berger marveled.
When they did come, the team wondered whether to have separate groups for the teenagers and their parents, but the families chose to stay together, Mrs. Doyle said.
“Are they just doing this because of their mom (or) dad?” wondered Mr. Berger. But he learned they weren’t.
The team told of support from the parish family.
Father Niccolls attended the gatherings.
Lucille Brennan, the parishioner who makes baptismal garments, sewed stoles – white for those being baptized, red for the others being confirmed.
Parish faith sharing groups prayed for them and sent them cards. The hope is to integrate them into those groups. Ms. Nally, chairwoman of the faith and formation ministry team that started these groups, said a group for teenagers will be started this summer.
Mr. Berger said some people have expressed interest in next year’s RCIA.