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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 11, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
Rally draws 1,000 young people
 
Eucharistic renewal at heart of implementation of new missal
 
Bishop’s Appeal tops $1.5M mark, nearing goal
Easter initiates new people
into the Catholic faith
 

Candidates and catechumens from St Philip Neri St. Albert Parish pose with Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone March 20 after the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Heather Hennigh, 8, is looking forward to receiving her First Holy Communion with her classmates this May at St. Philip Neri School.

But before that, at the Easter Vigil, Heather will watch the rest of her family — mom, dad, and two brothers, 10 and 12, enter the Catholic Church.

New Catholics
in the diocese


Catechumens
     Adult: 211
     Children: 110
Adult baptism candidates: 341
Total so far 2011: 662
 
This Easter, there are 211 adult catechumens and 110 child catechumens in the Diocese of Oakland. The catechumens are learning about the faith and will be baptized at Easter. In addition, there are 341 adult candidates — people who were baptized in a faith recognized by the Catholic Church, but now seeking full initiation in the church.

Heather’s family will be among the candidates this year. Baptized in the Presbyterian faith — Heather’s great-grandfather was a Presbyterian minister — the family is entering the Catholic Church at this Easter Vigil at St. Philip Neri St. Albert Parish in Alameda.

The family’s journey is just that — a family journey. Kathy Hennigh has taught fifth grade at St. Philip Neri School for five years. Before that, she taught at St. Anthony School in Oakland. The family began attending church at St. Philip Neri about a year after Kathy Hennigh began teaching there.

“They’ve been going to church since they were babies,” Kathy Hennigh said of her children.

Last year, her three children joined her as students at St. Philip Neri. Heather’s entry to second grade was a pivotal moment. “We brought the kids over,” said Kathy Hennigh. “Heather was in first grade. There was all the talk of the year the kids go through First Communion. That was the conversation piece.”

While Heather began her sacramental preparation with her classmates, last fall her parents entered the parish adult faith formation program led by Greta Rosenberger. Heather’s brothers — Hunter, 12, and Hudson, 10 — also began their preparation.

“We felt like if we were going to have Heather go through with it, we’d all go through with it,” Kathy Hennigh said.

“For me, it’s more the commitment to the Church, and raising our children in a Church that has more of a solid tradition,” she said.

There’s a new morning ritual in the household. “We’ve started praying,” Kathy Hennigh said. “We pray every morning. I love that we’re doing that prayer.”

Because of work schedules, that’s when the family gets together. “Breakfast is our meal, and we always do Sunday dinner,” she said. “We get early up and have breakfast and we always pray.”

Having a family of five enter the Church is a significant moment in parish life. And, in Heather Hennigh’s words, “I think it’s really cool having my whole family do it.”

Rosenberger has seen another family enter the Church at Easter, three years ago.

“There have been second-graders. Kids start to ask: ‘What does it mean to be a Catholic Christian?’” she said. “They get curious. They start to see their friends preparing, it’s the focus of second grade. The grace of their Baptism makes them hunger for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

For Hudson, 10, and Hunter, 12, becoming Catholic seems like the logical next step in their transition from public school to Catholic school. “It feels like becoming a new person,” Hudson said.

“Some of my classmates are becoming altar servers but you have to go through the training, and you have to have gone through First Communion, so that’s the kind of thing I can’t do,” Hudson said.

But if some additional training is offered to the newcomers, he’ll likely have some company in his brother Hunter.

Heather has been busy making memory books and banners — hers has “a cup with the wine with a little leaf on the side” — and praying three times a day with her second-grade class.

With their group from St. Philip Neri, the family attended the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of Christ the Light last month.

Coming soon is the Easter Vigil at St. Philip Neri.

“In the early church, all the fully initiated would vigil all night with the elect, with Baptism at dawn,” Rosenberger said.

At St. Philip Neri, it will be from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

They’ll start with lighting the holy fire, with candles, lighting the way into the dark church. Readings will follow, leading up to the sacraments.

One person will be baptized; the others will receive the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. Hunter and Hudson will receive the Eucharist, along with their parents. The parents will also receive the sacrament of Confirmation.

Heather will be watching; her own First Communion was two weeks ago. But she’s Ok with waiting.
They always say “best for last.”

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