Bishop Robert Deeley welcomed new members into the Catholic Church during a Mass celebrated on Sunday, July 26, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
“We believe that Jesus Christ has brought us together. He wants us to be able to draw strength from each other and to realize that we need each other,” the bishop said. “Because I believe that to be true, I am very happy to be with you today for this celebration. It is a grace for me and, I hope, a grace for you.”
During the Mass, the bishop baptized seven individuals and welcomed an eighth, who had been baptized in another Christian tradition, into full Communion with the Catholic Church through the sacraments of confirmation and first Communion. Two other adults completed their initiation by receiving confirmation.
“How blessed we are this afternoon to witness your wisdom which seeks to be more closely joined with Christ through becoming a member of the faithful of the Church and receiving these blessed sacraments,” the bishop said. “Through our relationship with Jesus and the Gospel, we come to know and understand what is the real meaning of life and what are the most important things in life. That relationship begins in baptism and is brought to completion in the sacrament of confirmation. These are the sacraments of belonging. They bring us into communion with Christ and with his Church. With them, we are able, then, to receive holy Communion, the very presence of Jesus, who gathers us together and makes us Church.”
Those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) most often enter the Church at the Easter Vigil. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of public Masses, forcing a delay. Those receiving the sacraments from the bishop said it was worth the wait.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Hubert Mupoy Lew, who was baptized. “I wanted to join the Church because I wanted to be one of the family of the Church.”
“I’m just excited. I don’t have enough words to describe it. I’m happy,” said Laeticia Uriel Hannah, who also was baptized.
To make sure those preparing to enter the Church didn’t lose a sense of connection during the three months away from Mass and each other, Michele Bernier, RCIA coordinator for the Portland Peninsula & Island Parishes, set up Zoom meetings.
“I recall that the first night we met on Zoom, I could hardly keep from crying, so sad was I to know what they were missing. But they were not as brokenhearted as I thought they’d be. In fact, their faith buoyed me. They had a complete grasp of the fact that, eventually, they would receive something that transcends time and place. They knew that they’d receive the sacraments in God’s time. And they were patient, and loving, and faithful. I was inspired by them, and I continue to be,” she said.
Due to coronavirus prevention guidelines, the Mass was limited to 50 people, so the community gathered consisted mainly of godparents, sponsors, family members, and friends.
To ensure everyone’s safety, the bishop also followed the guidance provided by the Vatican and used cotton swabs to anoint the foreheads of confirmation candidates with the sacred chrism.
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the bishop stressed the importance of gathering together, saying that it reminds us that we are Church and brings us closer to Jesus, who then connects us with God and provides direction for our lives.
"The one who sees as Jesus sees is the one who has wisdom. The one who has wisdom knows how to cope with the situations of life whether they are difficult or easy because they rely on the help of the Lord’s guidance,” the bishop said. “The ability to see as God sees is the treasure in the field or the pearl of great price. It allows us to know in humility that God has a plan for us, and with his help, we will know the path of life. When we acknowledge that the Spirit of Jesus guides us, we will know our place in the world. A relationship with God brings us to each other and sends us forth to live life together as members of the Church."
In addition to Laeticia and Hubert, the five people baptized were Cesar Orlando Lopez Chaj, Charlie Gonzalez, Manuiel Mocksey Lew, Griffin Sharp, and LyriaDawn Skjaeveland-Williams.
Isaiah Bickford was received into full Communion of the Catholic Church, while Jocelyn Nataly Alvarez and Malcolm Williams were confirmed.
“It means a lot because I want to be able to do a lot in Church, help other people,” said Jocelyn.
“I feel such an openness in my heart. I can’t even put it into words,” said Isaiah. “It’s so beautiful.”