PROVIDENCE — On the night of the Easter Vigil, church communities around Rhode Island gathered to commemorate the great mystery of the Catholic faith, offering witness to Christ’s death and resurrection in the lighting of the Easter candle and the proclamation of the Gospel message.
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At St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Providence, silence gave way to joyful celebration as the light of the Paschal candle spread from person to person, filling the corners of the historic church. Pastor Father Jaime Garcia led those gathered in shouts of praise as they offered thanks for their new life in Jesus Christ.
“Tonight is a great night. After 40 days of preparation during Lent, now we have come to the core of our faith,” he told the congregation during his bilingual homily, delivered in Spanish and English. “God is here and he’s among us. Jesus is alive. Jesus is risen.”
Toward the front of the church, 41 candidates patiently awaited the moment they would join in full communion with their fellow parishioners by receiving the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first holy Eucharist. Among the largest sacramental classes in the diocese, St. Charles has more than 300 children and adults receiving sacraments of initiation during this liturgical season, including a first Communion class of about 100 in May. For members of the class of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, who are traditionally welcomed into the Church during the Easter Vigil, the reception of the sacraments is the culmination of a long journey to join fully in the Catholic faith.
Damaris Navarro, 32, was among the catechumens who received her sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist. Though she has always considered herself Catholic in name and began attending Mass at St. Charles in 2002, it wasn’t until she entered the RCIA program in October that she began actively participating in the life of the Church.
“I just decided it was time to get our sacraments done, not just myself but my children and my husband,” she told Rhode Island Catholic during a phone interview on Good Friday. “I’ve been looking forward to it for so long it feels like an eternity.”
Navarro and her husband, Joel, also celebrated the sacrament of marriage at St. Charles on Palm Sunday. The couple, who have four children, only recently decided to get married in the Catholic Church and enter their family fully into the sacraments. The decision, said Navarro, was a joyful one for the entire family.
“I think that we kind of just woke up one day,” she said. “That’s the best way I can describe it. We just woke up and thought, what are we doing in our lives? We were kind of just going with the flow, but we’re not really having the right spiritual way of life. The correct way of life. We said you know what, we need to do this.”
The family began attending religious education classes and the four children were baptized into the Church in December. Joel, who had already been baptized, received the sacraments of confirmation and first Eucharist alongside his wife at the Easter Vigil. For Damaris, the journey has been challenging but joyful as she relied on the support of the St. Charles community to guide her into the life of the Church.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” she said. “It’s been exciting and sad and I’ve had days where I was completely lost but I’ve got to say, our teacher and Harriet [Troncoso, director of the RCIA program], also Deacon [Jose] Rico and Father Garcia, everybody has been so kind and helpful.”
Following the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, the candidates participated for the first time in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, receiving communion alongside their fellow Catholics as members of the body of Christ. As the Mass drew to a close, parishioners, new and old, raised their arms in celebration of the Easter proclamation of new life.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Navarro, as she gathered with her family for photos following the Mass.
Among the candidates, sponsors, family and friends gathered to offer congratulations and welcome their newest parishioners into St. Charles. Donaldo Rex Mitogo, who received the sacraments of confirmation and first Eucharist, summed up the experience as he stood with his brother, Fabricio, on the steps outside the church.
“I feel at home,” he said.