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placeholder March 18, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
Home, at last

Churches throughout the Diocese of Oakland will welcome new members at the Easter Vigil. Their journeys to full initiation into the Church are varied; some were baptized in other Christian faiths, and are becoming Catholic, while some are celebrating all the rites of initiation. In the Rite of Election, which took place at the Cathedral of Christ the Light on Feb. 16, candidates and catechumens were presented to Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Oakland. Prior to that rite, those seeking initiation into the church were presented to their parishes by their sponsors, attesting to their readiness for the sacraments in the Rite of Sending. Each of the new members has been guided through an RCIA program – Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Here are three of their stories.


Thomas Santos, center, with Alexandra Moore and Henry Chiu, both Elect from St. Joseph Basilica, after the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Courtesy photo

Signs lead to the Catholic Church

One day at the dump, Thomas Santos found a statue of Jesus. The man in his late 20s, who said he grew up without faith, realized it did not belong amid the muck.

 
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"I dug it out and took it home," he said.

The long hair and beard on the statue reminded him a little bit of himself. He was facing a growing realization that he was "not living my life properly," he said. He was traveling with the wrong crowd. "I'm wasting my life away."

"I was just lost," said the young man who had left high school before graduation. "I cut ties with everything."

At an art show, he saw a woman. She was glowing, he recalled. He recognized her as a friend from his better days. They had a good conversation. And then it was time for her to go to church: specifically, the Saturday vigil Mass at St. Joseph Basilica in Alameda.

Would he like to come along?

When they arrived at the church, a man approached the young woman and whispered something to her. She agreed.

She turned to Santos: I should have asked you, she said. He asked us to bring up the gifts.
For a young man who had just walked across the threshold of a church for the first time, this seemed like a lot of responsibility.

In those moments, he saw the simple gifts of bread and wine become "something more."
And, in time, Thomas Santos has seen himself become "something more." At the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Joseph Basilica, he will receive the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.
He's looking forward to it like nothing else.

Becoming Catholic has broken open possibilities in his life. He says, now, marriage and family might be possible for him. He had previously thought these would be beyond his reach.

He also looks forward to the responsibilities that lie ahead. Evangelizing comes to mind. He might paint the iconic '53 black Ford truck – the one that used to be adorned with skulls – white and gold, and do some evangelizing at car shows he attends.

I'm already a disciple," he said. "You have to put it to work."

He works in the family flooring business, he said, and thinks the decision to become Catholic has made him "nicer to be around." He looks forward to his family attending the Easter Vigil.
His appreciation for his father's "understanding, patience and love" has grown. Even during his darkest days, Santos knew his father was supportive. "He was never, 'Get out of the house.'"

Adopting new habits has been healthy and surprising, sometimes. He finds himself saying unaccustomed things, on a Saturday night, for example. "I've got to get to bed early. Church tomorrow."

The readings have been especially meaningful. "The readings speak directly to me," he said.

He has no doubt. "God led me to Him," he said.

A year ago, he had hoped to be baptized. There was some initial disappointment in that. But the longer journey has been a good one. "Everything that happens is the grace of God," he said.

In addition to his RCIA classes, he has joined a men's rosary group on Wednesday nights.

That parishioners he doesn't know come up and say they are praying for him means so much to him, he said.

While speaking before a crowd might have made him nervous at one time, he finds he can do this at St. Joseph's. "They're our family," he said. "Why be nervous in front of family?"

His gratitude extends to the RCIA team – "I know God's put them there for us to encounter" and to the parish.

"I was a half-empty guy," he said. "Now the glass is overflowing."

 
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