May 3, 2019


It’s a time to rejoice

It’s a time to rejoice.

Yes, of course, it’s a time to rejoice because Christ has risen from the dead and we are in the Easter season. But we want to rejoice for more prosaic reasons because we believe that the Church has a lot to rejoice about.

Just look at the number of people who were received into the full communion of the Church during this year’s Easter Vigil. Numbers nationally aren’t in yet, but there were reports that the numbers of those going through Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) programs were higher in some dioceses this year than last year.

In St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, 350 catechumens (those who had never been baptized) were in the RCIA program, up from 277 last year. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, more than 700 catechumens and candidates (those already validly baptized) went through the RCIA program, compared with 623 last year.

Here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, approximately 300 catechumens and 550 candidates from other faith traditions were received into the Church. There were also nearly 150 baptized Catholics who returned to the faith and/or completed their sacraments of initiation. Many of these new Catholics are young people. This is good news for the Church.

Speaking of young people, we can also rejoice in the success of the missionaries of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in converting some of the “nones”—those with no religious affiliation—on campuses. This is also good news.

We don’t want to be Pollyannaish about this. We fully realize that some Catholics have been leaving the Church lately because of the clerical sexual‑abuse scandal and its cover-up in some dioceses. That’s partly why we welcome the good news; we’ve had far too much of the bad news.

Why are more people becoming Catholics than you might expect? And why are most of us remaining Catholics? Don’t we care about the clerical sex-abuse scandal?

Of course we do. Many of us feel betrayed. But we, and probably new Catholics, are well aware that the Church has always been composed of sinners. However, we also believe that it continues to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Besides, we know many priests who are suffering greatly from what some of their brother priests have done.

Why would we punish ourselves because of the misdeeds of others? Why would we deny ourselves the sacraments and all the other spiritual benefits of the Church because someone else did something wrong?

Despite the scandal, our Church is strong. We know the statistics of how many people actually attend Mass weekly, but those who do find the spiritual nourishment they need. During Lent this year, there were long lines outside of confessionals as more people seem to be receiving the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, and parishes like St. John the Evangelist in downtown Indianapolis experience that throughout the year.

As for why more people than expected are becoming Catholics, each person is different. Some are doing so because their spouse is Catholic. But most others are doing so because they feel a need for a closer relationship with God. They, and longtime Catholics, can find that in the Eucharist and, in parishes fortunate enough to be able to provide it, in perpetual adoration chapels.

We might take some time, too, to rejoice in the way the Church has been spreading in other parts of the country, specifically in the South and Southwest. That’s a contrast, though, with the Northeast.

In a column in Our Sunday Visitor, Msgr. Owen Campion wrote that new parishes are opening in the South and Southwest, getting items from parishes that are closing up north. Thus, the Archdiocese of Atlanta has grown from 40,000 Catholics in 1962 to more than 1 million today. The Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., has gone from 30,000 to 250,000 in the past 40 years.

Msgr. Campion doesn’t mention any other examples, but dioceses in Texas and California have also boomed. Thus, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston now has 1.7 million Catholics and the Diocese of Orange, Cal., has 1,175,000—38.8 percent of its population.

Msgr. Campion wrote that anti-Catholicism used to be rife in the South. Today, in Tennessee, the lieutenant governor and the mayors of Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville are all Catholics.

It’s a time to rejoice.

—John F. Fink

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