A Message from the Bishop – New signs of life in Christ this Easter season

Bishop Dennis Sullivan blesses those newly-received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil at St. Andrew the Apostle in Gibbsboro, on April 4. Photo by James A. McBride
Bishop Dennis Sullivan blesses those newly-received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil at St. Andrew the Apostle in Gibbsboro, on April 4.
Photo by James A. McBride

The creed of the church states that on the third day He rose from the dead. Our profession of faith affirms that Jesus, who died and was buried, did not remain dead. He was given life after His human life had ended. He rose out of death to life. The church celebrates during the Easter Season for 50 days that Christ is Risen.

Fifty days, not just one day. Fifty days because of the awesomeness of this mystery of His rising from the dead to life. The Easter Season is all about life. It is about the life of the Risen Lord and it celebrates and never tires of repeating that He lives. Easter is also about His Risen life shared with those who are baptized. The waters of the Sacrament of Baptism pour His life into us who, then through the testimony of our lives, give witness that He lives in us. So it is that Saint Augustine would write that “we are Easter Christians.” Which is to say that the manner of our lives should testify that He is risen and lives in us.

In our diocese His new life was received by 160 catechumens who were baptized in our parishes during the Easter Vigil. Catechumens are adults and children of catechetical age who have presented themselves for Baptism. Their preparation for Baptism is distinct from the preparation of those who present infants for Baptism. The period of preparation for Baptism is critical to introduce the catechumen to life in Christ and to prepare him or her to live that life faithfully forever in the Catholic Church.

I was privileged to baptize four adults at the Great Vigil at the parish of Saint Andrew in Gibbstown. I personally witnessed the joy for these new brothers and sisters who were washed in Christ’s life on Holy Saturday night. A similar scene was repeated in many of our parishes at their Easter Vigils. The newly baptized increase the numbers of Catholics in our diocese. What a joy for our parishes to welcome new members, who then need to be encouraged by all of us to remain attached to Christ and to our church. What a joy for those who minister in our parishes in the Rite of Christian Initiation programs as catechists, sponsors, and spiritual directors. They see the life of Christ take flesh in the lives of new Christians. Thank you to our RCIA teams whose ministry brings the new Life of the Risen Lord to those who seek Him.

Participating in the RCIA are others called candidates who receive First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Having already been baptized they complete the sacraments of initiation and share sacramentally in the new life of the Risen Lord.

They were joined in our diocese by candidates who on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil received the Body and Blood of the Lord for the first time and were strengthened by the laying on of hands and the anointing with Chrism through the Sacrament of Confirmation. Again it was a great joy for the candidates, for the local parish community and for our diocesan church. These candidates remind us that it is in the Sacraments of the Church that we know and encounter the Risen Christ.

Finally, at the Great Vigil of Easter there were those who, having been validly baptized in a Christian Church, professed the creed of our Catholic faith and joined our Roman Catholic Church and then shared in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. It was new life for these sisters and brothers whom we welcome to our Catholic Church as members of our faith family.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) reaches its climax at the Easter Vigil. That once a year liturgy is a joy-filled celebration of the new life of Christ in the lives of those who participate. Each catechumen and candidate has a unique life story about the grace of the Risen Christ touching their lives with His new life and a story about the attractiveness of our Catholic Church.

Signs of the new life of Christ are found everywhere that Christians live His life and respond to His grace. We need to look around and be sensitive to them in our own experiences. During this Easter Season, let us pray for these sisters and brothers who participated in the RCIA as we give them welcome to our church and encourage them in their new life in Christ, by the example of our lives in Christ.