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March 31, 2010
New Catholics embrace the Church
By John Gleason
This Easter season, the Catholic Church in northern Colorado will welcome some 1,200 new members. Among them men, women and even entire families who have spent the past months preparing for the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program (RCIA) in their local parishes.
James Cavanagh, director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese, said the number of people coming into the Church is on par with recent years.
“That number,” he explained, “includes many who were baptized as babies but whose parents didn’t keep taking them to Church.”
Cavanagh said that is common with Hispanic immigrants.
“Parents have their children baptized,” he said, “then the family immigrates to the United States but the connection is lost with the Church. When the children become young adults, they decide to reestablish that relationship and complete the sacraments they’ve missed.”
Cavanagh said that of those coming into the Church at Easter, approximately one third were baptized but didn’t receive other sacraments, a third come from other Christian churches and the final third are those who have never been baptized.
Citing a 2010 yearbook published by the National Council of Churches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes that in the United States and Canada membership numbers have gone up 1.49 percent for the Catholic Church—the country’s largest denomination with more than 68 million members. There are 1 billion Catholics worldwide.
David Pipp is the director of evangelization at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Northglenn. He said that once again, they have a large contingent of people entering the Church this Easter at their parish—91.
“I don’t know how we get this many,” he marveled. “It’s just the people of the parish—they keep bringing more people in.”
Pipp said the age variance has run the gamut “from 2 -102” but there are a lot of younger couples, even entire families, who have been preparing to come into the Church.
“We have a lot of junior high school students being baptized, more than a dozen,” he said. “We like to group our teenagers and adults together, giving them all a taste of the experience of the faith with members of the parish.”
According to Pipp, the adults and teens meet every Wednesday night at the Church hall, and often these meetings attract a large group.
“Father Greg (Ames) and I present the teaching of the catechism,” he said. “We call it Our Catholic Journey. On an average night we can have 700 people show up. During the latter half of the evening, we take our candidates into a separate room and hold a question and answer period on that evening’s topic. It’s a fantastic way of teaching and discussion.”
John and Sunny Clark and their five children will be among the 91 people who’ll formally join the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. John Clark said that not long after the family moved here from California, his wife began to look around at some of the churches in their area.
“Growing up, half my family was Catholic, the others weren’t,” he said. “My wife had attended some non-denominational churches but as a family, we hadn’t attended church in a long, long time.”
Eventually, the couple called Immaculate Heart of Mary and spoke with Pipp, whom they found enthusiastic.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t too interested,” Clark said, “but we talked to some of the people, attended Mass and heard Father Greg talk. I don’t know. Guess you could say that it just clicked.”
Clark said that the parish was a comfortable place, “a family place,” that had something for everyone.
It’s a big parish,” he said, “but at no time do you ever feel lost. Father Greg spoke of your family and the Church family and how they become one.”
The entire Clark family will be baptized, confirmed and receive Communion during the Easter Vigil Mass. Their journey to become Catholic Christians started before they discovered the warm and caring parish family that is Immaculate Heart of Mary. First, there was a nudge that led them to the Catholic Church.
“I’m thinking that if a person is in a state of wonder, of asking questions, then Someone put them there,” Clark said. “You just have to open your heart and listen to God.”