Peter Yang, a high school senior in St. Cloud, Minn., will become a Catholic at Easter.

CNS PHOTO | DIANNE TOWALSKI

Peter Yang, a high school senior in St. Cloud, Minn., will become a Catholic at Easter.

April 6, 2015
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Who was Jesus? Why do we need a pope? How were we made by God?

All of these are good questions that anyone considering becoming Catholic might ask.

But the questions are even more poignant when they come from a young man who grew up in a place where the government told him that God cannot mutually exist with science, where one who believes in God is considered weak, and where the only media coverage of the Catholic Church is around abuse scandals.

If this is your background, it's challenging to talk about God at all.

For 18-year-old Peter Yang, who is from Beijing and is a senior at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn., these were among the questions he had.

But thanks to his own curiosity and the support of the school, Yang began a journey to full initiation into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.

He will become a Catholic at the Easter Vigil, April 4, as will thousands of others across Canada and the U.S.

"I was taught that God did not exist," he said. "I didn't believe in the Church's teaching. I considered church a place where they were gathering people's money and taking advantage of it."

Yang plans to return to China this summer and said he believes his parents will be supportive of his decision to become a Catholic.

For him, living his faith "on the inside" will help him through the difficulties he may face "on the outside."

The Easter Vigil marks the culmination of RCIA, a process of conversion and study in the Catholic faith for catechumens, those who have never been baptized, and for candidates who were baptized in another Christian Church and want to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The catechumens receive Baptism, Confirmation and first Communion at the Easter Vigil, while the candidates make a profession of faith, are confirmed, if they have not already been confirmed, and receive the Eucharist.

In Brooklyn, Ted Musco, the diocesan director of faith formation, said many people think great numbers are leaving the Catholic Church and are not aware of those joining.

"More and more people want to get involved," Musco said.

For some individuals who will be received into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday, the event will be a family affair – literally.

In Sioux City, Iowa, Heather Badar and daughter Isabella "Bella" will receive First Communion April 4.

Heather and her husband, Tracey, were raised by parents who had a strong faith in God and were committed to their church – Heather as a Missouri Synod Lutheran and Tracey as a Catholic.

"Over our 17 years of marriage, we have been active member of three Lutheran churches," Heather explained. "We have also attended Mass at Catholic churches on holy days, when visiting relatives, and with our large group of friends who are also Catholic."

Heather found herself drawn to the reverence of the Mass and the discussion would often surface about embracing membership in a Catholic church.

"My biggest fear was the classes I knew I would need to take to convert."

BIGGEST FAITH JOURNEY

But for Heather RCIA became the biggest faith journey of her life.

"I have learned about the Catholic faith, but more so I have learned about my relationship with Jesus," she said.

"I went through Confirmation and professed my faith as an eighth grader and I have always had a relationship with the Lord, but going through this process again as an adult, when it is my choice and God's will driving me to once again profess my faith, has a much deeper meaning."

When she was just a few weeks away from becoming a member of the Catholic Church, 27-year-old Tina Saviano from St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison, Wisc., called preparing for that moment "the best thing ever."

"I love it. I can't get enough," she said about RCIA.

It has been a lifelong journey to the church for Saviano.

After being baptized a Lutheran as a child, her life took many turns through foster homes, exposure to many faiths, but consistent participation in none.

"I knew that faith has always been in my heart," Saviano said.

After graduating from high school, she wanted to be part of a church again, but kept putting it off.

She found new challenges in her early and mid-20s after a marriage that ended, and now being a single mother to two children, a daughter and son, ages three and one, respectively.

Prior to finding the Catholic Church, her "life was spinning out of control," as she put it.

Former Buddhist

In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, CaLee Przybylski, her husband and four children will be among those being baptized into the Catholic Church at Easter.

It will be the final step in a journey that began when she was a child, resettling in Utah with her parents and siblings, refugees from Laos.

Her family practised Buddhism and would go to the Buddhist temple for special occasions, "which was fine, but I didn't feel that I had the guidance that I needed because there's no teaching," Przybylski said.

Instead, she felt a connection with God. Some years after living in Colorado, where she started RCIA classes but was unable to finish, she returned to Utah and found a spiritual home at the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

When she started going to Mass, she invited her children to join her. They did, and "my oldest daughter told me that when she entered the cathedral she had this feeling that she knew that it was right path," Przybylski said.