Mark Twain once remarked that the reports, present in his day, of the imminent demise of the Catholic Church were similar to being invited to a funeral that keeps getting postponed.
The numbers are still coming in but in the United States this last weekend it looks like tens of thousands were received into the Catholic Church. For 2010, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reports that there were over 43,000 adult baptisms and more than 75,000 people received into full communion with the Church in the U.S. alone (this also does not count the over 830,000 infant baptisms reported for that year). It is safe to assume, I believe, that the numbers for 2011 will be consistent with this trend.
What seems to be striking for commentators this year is the wide variety of people who are entering the Church. There are people from all walks of life and all socio-economic-cultural distinctions and people brought up in different faith traditions (Christian and non-Christian) and ethnic groups. People are entering the Church individually and also as families.
One newly minted Catholic – since last Easter Sunday – who is receiving attention is Abby Johnson. Mrs. Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who had a conversion after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion in fall of 2009. She is the author of the bestselling book “Unplanned”.
These men and women have been studying, learning, reflecting and praying about entering the Church for months through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program present in Catholic parishes. Ahdija Cheumbike Baker (a former Muslim) from New Orleans, LA remarks on the value of an extensive preparation program for entrance into the Church, “If I had gone to a church that gets you in and out in 45 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have changed my religion; but at St. Peter Claver I feel a deep connection.”
We celebrate with these new members of the Church! They witness to us the vitality and true life of the Christian faith and we pray that they will now continue to grow in their Catholic faith. For them (as for all of us) Easter of 2011 rather than being the end of a journey is really just a beginning…
In this post’s title I wrote “plus one” for a valid reason. This coming Sunday at our last spring semester Mass, Shawn Stewart will be baptized, confirmed and receive first communion at the Catholic Center! Shawn and I have been meeting for months now in preparation but his more fundamental preparation and witnessing of the faith has been through all the Catholic friends whom he has known over his life. Please keep Shawn in your prayers as this Sunday approaches.
The Church continues to be church…
Christ is risen! Very truly he is risen!