Easter offers an inviting time for newcomers

For those who haven’t grown up Catholic, the prospect of actually joining the 2,000-year-old church might seem a bit daunting.

The Easter Vigil Mass each year at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church is the traditional time for those who have been preparing through study and prayer to be baptized and confirmed in the faith. (Photo courtesy St. Andrew Catholic Church)

By Joyce Coronel

For those who haven’t grown up Catholic, the prospect of actually joining the 2,000-year-old church might seem a bit daunting. How do you do that sign of the cross thing? When are you supposed to genuflect? How do you learn all those prayers?

Every year on the night before Easter, Catholic churches around the world bring in new members who learn all of that and more. St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in West Chandler is no different. The mission-style church will see 15 men, women and children baptized by immersion and 24 others receive the sacrament of confirmation on Saturday, April 15.

The event is the culmination of a nine-month process known as the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA for adults and RCIT for teens). Bill Marcotte leads the formation effort at St. Andrew’s and is gearing up for the big celebration this month.

Preparation began last summer, with the parish inviting those who are interested in becoming full-fledged members to weekly meetings that begin in September and run through Pentecost, the feast that falls 50 days after Easter.

“They learn about faith and spirituality,” Marcotte said. “They learn some of the very basics like who Jesus is and what he wants, the sacramental life, why we need Jesus and what salvation is.”

In an age when many are leaving the Christian faith, Marcotte remains optimistic about attracting new members of the church.

“God is still calling people to him and people are still encountering him in a real, experiential, tangible way where they can’t deny it,” Marcotte said.

The nine-month formation process includes two retreats and features speakers, sponsors and plenty of opportunity for questions and prayer.

Kristy Hafey, a Chandler wife and mother, is taking the plunge, so to speak, at the Easter vigil this year at St. Andrew’s. Along with her 17-year-old daughter, Braylee, a Corona student, she’ll be baptized and confirmed on Saturday, April 15.

Kristy said she grew up with no particular religious training, though her grandparents were Catholic. Her husband’s family is also Catholic. For years, she said, she’s watched as nieces and nephews were baptized into the faith.

“Something told me it was time to get baptized,” Kristy said. “We started at St. Andrew’s last year. That church is amazing—everyone is so welcoming. That solidified my decision to start RCIA.”

At the Easter vigil, she’ll step into the large baptismal font that stands at the entrance to the sanctuary inside St. Andrew’s. The Rev. Robert Aliunzi will baptize her, but it won’t be the first encounter Kristy has had with the Ugandan priest who became pastor of the congregation last year.

“Father Robert has blessed me before and it was literally like my heart exploded. I started crying,” Kristy said. “Something happened. I get chills thinking about it.”

Marcotte reflected on the process by which people join the Catholic Church. He believes that those who come to the initial inquiry session do so because God has already begun a process in their heart.

“It takes a lot of inertia-breaking for someone to call the church and say ‘I’m interested.’ Usually part of that is because they have some kind of experience with God. They know they are being called, they have a desire for it and they come.”

Information: standrewchandler.com or call 480-899-1990