Hundreds received into church at Easter Vigil; here’s story of one

By: By Jennifer Willems

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth and final part of a series that has followed Connie Burek of Brimfield through Lent to her reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Here she talks about her experience of Holy Week — and what comes next.

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It was her desire for the Eucharist that brought Connie Burek to the RCIA process at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Peoria Heights last fall, and “the absolute high point” of the Easter Vigil came when Msgr. William Watson put the Body of Christ into her hands for the first time.

“It was amazing,” she said of the Easter Vigil. “It obviously was special for me and George because of me joining the church, but even separate from that I think it was a really great Mass.”

Baptized and raised a Methodist, Connie married into Catholicism when she walked down the aisle of St. Thomas Church with George Burek in 1984. They walked down that aisle again last Saturday night, this time following the Light of Christ in the Easter Candle to the sacraments that would bring her into full communion with the Catholic Church.

In addition to receiving the Eucharist, Connie made a profession of faith and was confirmed by Msgr. Watson, pastor.

As she took part in the offertory procession, carrying in one of the candles that would grace the altar, she found herself thinking about all the times she had watched her daughters Mandi, Ali and Lexi and son Nick come down the same aisle as they celebrated milestones in their Catholic journey.

“Now it was me and my kids were all watching me,” she told The Catholic Post. “It was a special feeling.”

Connie said another special moment came when she stood in the sanctuary with the other adults and children who were received into the church that night and shared the light from the Easter Candle with members of the assembly after everyone had renewed their baptismal promises.

“There were so many people who made a point of coming to me to light their candle. They were people I’ve known or had a relationship with over the years and it was really neat that they wanted to come to me specifically,” Connie said. “It just felt like such an embrace. That stands out as a very high point for me.”

A FULL WEEK
It was a full week of firsts and special moments, which seemed overwhelming at first, she said.

“It just felt like a lot that I had to commit to. Now, reflecting back on it, it made it that much more powerful that there was so much,” she said. “It wasn’t just Easter Vigil. Everything leading up to it made Easter Vigil that much better.”

Providing the foundation was the Bible study she and George attended on the Tuesday of Holy Week that is led by Father Nathan Cromly, CSJ, her spiritual director. He talked about the last seven things Jesus said before he died and “it couldn’t have been more perfect.”

“I think it touched everybody in a way, but for me it was particularly powerful,” Connie said. “I found myself, as the week went on, thinking about those seven things . . . drawing on that.”

The next evening she celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time and found that it added a new dimension to her lifelong belief that one must sincerely repent for sins before taking them to God.

“I will continue to approach forgiveness in that same way,” she explained. “After that experience I felt that I will embrace (confession) as part of my life going forward.”

ANOTHER BEGINNING
On Holy Thursday, it is the custom at St. Thomas for the RCIA catechumens and candidates to have their feet washed and Connie was among them this year. It was humbling, she said.

“But I kept thinking as humbled as I feel to have Father (Thomas) Taylor wash my feet, how must the disciples have felt having Christ wash their feet? I just kept thinking that the whole time he was doing that,” she told The Post.

“In all the times over the years that you’ve heard the story of Christ washing the disciples’ feet I don’t think I ever appreciated that until that moment,” Connie said.

Good Friday held another first — the veneration of the cross. That night the Bureks watched “The Passion of the Christ” as a family.

“We had watched it before, but it added to the intensity of the weekend,” she said.

In the days since the Easter Vigil, Connie has continued her practice of stopping by a Catholic church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament for 10 minutes each day. There are times she arrives just as Mass is beginning and stays to take part. But she knows her journey is far from over.

“This is another beginning of sorts, the next step,” she said. “What I don’t want to allow to happen is that (Easter Vigil) was the mountaintop and now everything else is coming down the other side. You go from that mountaintop to a taller mountain.”

She said being a Catholic is like having a new cloak. Her prayer now is “how does God want me to wear it and make it my own?”

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