Easter 2021 resurrects hope, joy: “It’s so wonderful to see all of you here!”

Marc Prosper Awuya lights his candle from the Paschal Candle held by Father Donald Levitt, pastor, at the beginning of the Easter Vigil at Christ the King in Moline. He would make a profession of faith, be confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time at the liturgy. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

MOLINE — As he looked out at Christ the King Church here during last year’s Easter Vigil, Father Donald Levitt only saw the photos of parishioners that were taped to the pews. It was the beginning of the pandemic and public celebrations of the Mass were suspended.

What a difference a year makes.

To bless the new water in the baptismal font at Christ the King in Moline, Father Levitt dips the Paschal Candle into it at the Easter Vigil on April 3. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“It is so wonderful to see all of you here in person,” he said as he looked at a church — and two overflow spaces — this time filled to safe social distancing capacity. Among them were 14 children, women and men in the front pews who were about to be received into the Catholic Church through the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

“Just as a year ago it seemed we had little to hope for because things were so bad, we’ve now realized that we were wrong,” Father Levitt, pastor, said in his homily. “Because God’s grace, God’s love, continues to spread and grow in his people, and people still are hearing him call them by name, and still responding to that call.”

The Easter Vigil, always rich in Scripture and symbolism, seemed especially radiant as readings and psalms were offered in French and Spanish, as well as English to reflect the heritage of those entering the church that night.

“No matter whether we are speaking French, Spanish, English or some other language, God speaks to us in words that we all understand, and he calls us to bring his love and his message of peace to all people, so that everyone has the opportunity to know that they, too, can be a part of God’s family, that God loves each of us,” Father Levitt said. “He wants us as his own.”

Across the Diocese of Peoria nearly 200 people were to be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on April 3.

EASTER SACRAMENTS CELEBRATED

The vigil started after sundown with the blessing of the new fire and the Paschal Candle, the symbol of the Light of Christ that dispels the darkness. After the candle was lit, Father Levitt shared the light with those who would receive the Easter sacraments.

The dark church grew bright as the catechumens and candidates used their candles to light the candles of those in the pews as they processed to their places at the front of church.

When the Paschal Candle was ensconced near the baptismal font, Father Eric Kpotor, SMA, sang the Exultet or Easter Proclamation.

Heriberto Avalos Jr. beams following his baptism at the Easter Vigil at Christ the King Church in Moline. He was one of five baptized at the April 3 liturgy. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Wiillems)

The Paschal Candle would be dipped into the baptismal font to bless the new water before Heriberto Avalos Jr., Kayla Avalos, Noellie Avalos, Komlatse Leo Ntsu, and Ayaba Antoinette Logossou were called forward to be baptized. In keeping with COVID-19 protocols, fresh water was poured over the head of each person and used for the sprinkling rite that would come later for those seated in the church.

Those making a profession of faith were Marc Prosper Awuya, Carolina Lopez, and Howard Olson. Then they were confirmed, along with America Cabrera, Bakhita Houndjo, Grace Jordan, Robert Jordan, Emma Kelly, Ayaba Antoinette Logossou, Carlos Madrigal-Avalos, and Komlatse Leo Ntsu.

Those receiving Communion for the first time were Marc Prosper Awuya, Emma Kellly, Ayaba Antoinette Logossou, Carolina Lopez, Kayla Avalos, Noellie Avalos, Howard Olson, and Komlatse Leo Ntsu.

“OVERWHELMED WITH JOY”

After the Easter Vigil ended, Anna Catour said she was “overwhelmed with joy.”

“It is just such an exciting thing to be a part of all that they go through and this culmination of all their efforts,” said Catour, the director of adult faith formation at Christ the King. “It is just such a joy.”

Last year, no one had any idea that things could stop the way they did, she told The Catholic Post, calling it “devastating.”

“What a celebration this year. It’s just amazing how you feel,” Catour said.

The pandemic continued to pose challenges, however. While the group started by meeting in person, rearranging the room to maintain safe social distancing as their numbers grew, eventually they would get together online via Google Meets.

Catour praised their perseverance.

After making his profession of faith, Howard Olson is confirmed by Father Levitt. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“You would think, ‘Why would anyone join the church now with everything in such turmoil?’ But the Holy Spirit is so powerful in these people that it’s just amazing,” she said.

Howard Olson is an example of that perseverance. He was approached about coming into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults about 10 years ago, but the timing never seemed to be right.

His sponsor, Aimee Muhleman, and her family continued to support him until she could stand behind him, her hand on his shoulder, as he was confirmed at Christ the King on April 3.

Olson, who lives in Rock Island and manages the Black Hawk College bookstore, cited tradition as one of the main reasons he wanted to become Catholic. The example of the Muhleman family was another.

“It’s a one-on-one human interaction in relationship with the Lord,” he said.

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