Thousands of new Catholics expected to join church at Easter Vigil

Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron questions candidates and catechumens Feb. 18 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament during the annual Rite of Election, the first milestone in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The RCIA process, carried out during Lent in parishes and dioceses across the United States, comes full circle as the U.S. church welcomes thousands of new Catholics at Easter Vigil Masses March 31. (CNS photo/Dan Meloy, The Michigan Catholic)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of new Catholics are expected to join the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil liturgies in parishes throughout the United States the night of April 20.

While a precise number was not available, reports from 89 U.S. Latin-rite dioceses, roughly half the total number, indicate that their dioceses alone will account for about 37,000 Catholics joining the church.

The great majority of the new Catholics will have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process at their chosen parish. Already with some knowledge of Jesus and Christian teachings at the time they begin, the new Catholics learned the teachings of the Catholic Church in a more formal way and discerned that they were ready to commit to living according to these beliefs.

There are two distinct groups of people joining the church. One group is known as catechumens, who have never been baptized. They will receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and first Communion — at the Easter Vigil liturgy. The other group is known as candidates, who have already been baptized in another Christian faith. They will enter the Catholic Church through a profession of faith and reception of confirmation and the Eucharist.

Some of the largest U.S. dioceses are receiving more than 1,000 Catholics each into the church at Easter. They include the Los Angeles, Galveston-Houston, Atlanta and Seattle archdioceses, and the Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, dioceses.

Many other dioceses are welcoming at last 100 each of catechumens and candidates into the church. Archdioceses that have reported such totals include Washington, New Orleans, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Denver, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Boston, Indianapolis and Baltimore.

Twenty dioceses also reported more than 100 each of catechumens and candidates ready to enter the church at Easter. They include: Honolulu; Pittsburgh; Salt Lake City; Orlando, Palm Beach, St. Augustine and Venice, Florida; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Jefferson City and Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Arlington, Virginia; Tucson, Arizona; Little Rock, Arkansas; Trenton, New Jersey; Wichita, Kansas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Tyler, Texas; and Springfield, Illinois.

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