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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: April 27, 2022
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process, like all other aspects of life, was dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Diocese of Little Rock. Entry into the Church in 2020 and 2021 was modified because of restrictions and ongoing safety concerns for participants. This year, in a return to a more normal experience, Catholic parishes across Arkansas welcomed 423 new Catholics into the Church during Easter Vigil Masses on Saturday, April 16, 2022.
"The celebrations of Holy Week had a joy and sense of relief this year. The number of people at Mass for Holy Week and Easter were much larger than last year," said Father Erik Pohlmeier, diocesan director of faith formation and pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock. "The sense of celebration was strong and those joining the Church were able to have a richer experience because of it. There are still people who find themselves having to quarantine, but even that feels like more of an inconvenience than a threat for most people.
"The last two years have taught our parishes an ability to be flexible and adjust to the shifting needs of the moment. With special cases we were able to adapt and still celebrate the grace of God found in the sacraments," he added. "The move from the cross to the resurrection, and from trials to hope was distinct this year. No doubt our new Catholics will serve as beautiful witnesses to the work of Jesus Christ in our world."
Those who entered the Church at the Easter Vigil, fell into two groups: the elect and candidates. The elect had not been baptized or formed in the Christian faith and life. During their initiation they were baptized, confirmed and receive their first Communion. Candidates were already baptized members of other Christian churches who wished to become Catholic. During their initiation, they made a profession of faith, were confirmed and received their first Communion.
Ten of these neophytes (new Catholics) explained why they wanted to be Catholic in the April 16 issue of Arkansas Catholic. Read their stories below.
“Everything about being Catholic — the way Mass was presented, the way the words were taught and preached — has resonated through me. Now, whatever action I take in life, I make sure it’s worthy in God’s eyes. This faith is something I’m going to stick to, no matter what.” — Khuong Tieu, Candidate , Immaculate Conception Church, North Little Rock
“A calling to start my journey with faith several years ago is what led me to Christ the King. I have attended many churches in the past and even though I can glorify God in any church, I felt God’s calling leading me here. I am proud to say I will be baptized at Easter Vigil as well as being received by the Catholic Church. I have many people in this parish to thank for helping me with my walk with Jesus, without them none of this would be possible." — Isabella Rossetti, Elect, Christ the King Church, Fort Smith
“It goes back to my roots, really. I grew up in Catholic schools, then as a young adult I kind of veered away from faith in general. A few years ago, I moved right across the street from Holy Souls and just got back into the Church. My children, 10 and 7, attend Holy Souls School, and my 7-year-old, Sam, is going to be baptized and receive his sacraments as well. I thought it would be special to do all of those things with him. We're doing our classes together and looking forward to Easter coming up and joining the Catholic Church officially.” — Betsey Peeler with son, Sam, 7, Candidate, Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Little Rock
“My wife became Catholic (in 2019) and I realized the love that St. Joseph (Parish) had for Jesus and came to the realization that that's what I wanted in my house. Obviously, it can’t be exactly the same, but I want to be able to raise my daughter properly in the Church and have her to have a heart for the Lord the same way we do. So that was really the driving force. St. Joseph’s is the most welcoming church I've ever been to. When I first thought Catholic, I was like, ‘No, not in a million years,’ and then I actually came to church and it's the best church I've ever been in. Between that and the tradition of the Catholic Church runs very, very deep. Hearing the stories, going through RCIA and learning about all of this stuff, has kind of driven me toward even the saints; they lived incredible lives. … They were incredible people and why wouldn't you want one of them praying for you?” — John Sauser, with 21-month-old daughter, Sylvia, Elect, St. Joseph Church, Conway
“I feel very welcome at that church. I enjoy the Spanish (Mass) by the way, I understand the Spanish much better, I feel more secure. I love just the feeling there; I love singing the songs. Somehow I just feel like that's my spot; that church. I've been going there for three years, but I recently figured out that there's classes and so I thought, ‘Wow, let me go ahead and convert.’” — Orfa Monge, Elect, St. Theresa Church, Little Rock
“The reason why I want to become Catholic is not only because my husband is a Catholic, but I knew in order to restore my life to God I needed structure and discipline. As a former pagan, I knew that if I didn't devote myself fully, my sins may be too unforgettable in the end. I ended up at St. Joseph by the grace of God and through the sacraments will I be forgiven.” — Kassie Garcia, Elect, St. Joseph Church, Tontitown
“I was raised a Southern Baptist and I didn’t think much about God until I met my fiance Ricardo (Ramirez) in 2015. We started talking about religion and I learned a lot from him. … I realized I needed to get closer to God. At RCIA I felt this is what I needed. I felt like I belonged. I had a feeling that God was telling me that I belonged.” — Tiara Burgess, Elect, St. Mary of the Springs Church, Hot Springs
“I've tried everything else, and there was always something missing. Then I started going and learning about the Eucharist, and that, right there, is what did it. It just hit me. That's exactly what I was missing — the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ. That’s it.” — Janice Sheppard, Candidate, St. Jude the Apostle Church, Jacksonville
“I started the process for an annulment through the Church because the woman I’m in love with is a Catholic. I started the RCIA classes through the Church so I could better understand her and her faith. During the classes I was drawn into the wonder of it all. I realized that I had been a Catholic all my life; I just never knew it And through my love for my fiancé I found a true love of the Lord.” — Kelly Kneisley, Candidate, Immaculate Conception Church, Fort Smith
“(My daughter) got married in the Catholic Church (17 years ago) but after that she joined RCIA classes and became Catholic. She became a real advocate about the Catholic faith because she was always being questioned about it. She was a big influence on me joining RCIA class. I started going to the church, and I was so impressed and inspired by Father William (Burmester). I don’t know what it is about being in his presence but he just seems godly to me. I get kind of emotional about it. … The people in that church are just like family to each other, and I’ve never experienced that before. And they were so open, and I just feel blessed going there.” — Connie Cobb, Candidate , St. Edward Church, Texarkana