Joy as more than 300 people come ‘home’ at Easter Vigil — including 12 at cathedral
Noele Tatlock of Pekin came “home” Saturday night. So did Hunter Dupuis, a junior studying finance at Illinois State University in Normal. They were among more than 300 brothers and sisters in faith who were received into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil celebrations across the Diocese of Peoria.
What brought them to this point in their lives?
“Jesus is our why,” Bishop Louis Tylka said in his homily at the Easter Vigil at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on April 8.
“And what Jesus has done and still does for us is the only purpose we need,” he told those who filled the church. “The love of Christ compels us! It all starts with Jesus.”
That was clear from the very beginning of the Easter Vigil, when those who were to be baptized, confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time gathered around the new fire that was burning in front of the cathedral. After Bishop Tylka prepared and lit the Paschal Candle, Deacon Ignacio Cárdenas Morán carried it into the dark church.
He stopped three times and intoned “Lumen Christi” (“Light of Christ”), to which the people responded “Deo gratias” (“Thanks be to God”). The flame from the Paschal Candle was shared immediately with the people in the pews, who were waiting with their own candles. With the light spread throughout the church, Deacon Cárdenas Morán sang the Exsultet or Easter Proclamation in Spanish.
Five readings from Scripture followed, telling of our salvation history. In addition to English, these were proclaimed in Tagalog and Chuj, while the Epistle from Romans and Matthew’s Gospel passage recounting Christ’s resurrection were proclaimed in Spanish.
“THAT MISSING PIECE”
Twelve people from the Heart of Peoria Catholic Community, St. Joseph Catholic Newman Center in Peoria, and St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center in Normal celebrated the Easter sacraments during the Mass.
For Tatlock, who was baptized, confirmed and received Communion that night, becoming Catholic “was that missing piece in my life.”
“I had never really been exposed to church at all, but always felt a push to get here,” she said. “It’s a time in my life when I felt it was appropriate to make that move.”
While she lives in Pekin, Tatlock got to know Sacred Heart in Peoria after attending a wedding there. When she returned for her first Sunday Mass, a family member met her at the church. She has been receiving instruction from Father William Miller, pastor.
She met her sponsor, Tracy Geisz, through a mutual friend and said, “God put us together.”
It was a special night for Geisz in more ways than one — she was celebrating the 25th anniversary of being received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in Aurora, Colorado.
“I just don’t know what I’d do without my faith,” Geisz said. “It’s meant everything to me.”
“IT FELT LIKE A FAMILY”
Dupuis said he found a sense of belonging at the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center that kept him coming back.
“As soon as I walked into Mass, it felt like a family,” he told The Catholic Post.
That started with the Koinonia retreat he made with the Newman Center community, even before he transferred to Illinois State University. He met his sponsor, Skyler Giampa, at the retreat and they became friends.
“Regardless of whether or not they make that decision, they are welcome,” said campus minister Emily Stanislawski. “Wherever they are on that journey, they are welcome — if they’re confirmed or not confirmed, if they’re considering that decision or not considering that decision. Newman is still a home for them.”
Father Kyle Lucas, chaplain at the Newman Center, said it is vital for students to be able to explore their faith at this time in their lives.
“I hope they are receiving the tools, they’re receiving that ability to become and remain intentional, lifelong disciples of Jesus,” he said. “They’re making life choices for everything — their whole life, vocation, careers. . . . There’s a lot happening in these four short years for these college students.”
Coming to the mother church of the Diocese of Peoria to celebrate the sacraments of initiation gives the students an experience of the universal church, Father Lucas added.
“Different cultures, backgrounds, walks of life, young and old — students find themselves in their walk of faith. They are going to be able to plug right in to continuing that journey of faith,” he said. “They’re not alone on that journey of faith.”
“GO BE MISSIONARY DISCIPLES”
None of us is alone because we have met the Lord, who has told us and shown us that we are loved, Bishop Tylka said in his homily.
“We have been so deeply touched and so amazingly forgiven, that it is truly our heart’s desire to be close to Jesus,” he said. “Still, even more astonishing is that as much as we desire to be close to the Lord, His desire to be close to us is so much greater. Jesus wants to be close to you, to me, to each and every one of us.”
That closeness is embodied in the sacraments, he said.
“In baptism we become one with the Lord. In confirmation we are empowered by the Lord. In the Eucharist, we are fed by the Lord,” Bishop Tylka explained.
How do we respond to such love? The women at the empty tomb offer a clue, he said.
“Go quickly and tell others. . . . Go be missionary disciples. . . . Go and share all that we have seen and experienced in Jesus,” Bishop Tylka said. “This is the great commission given to the apostles, to all those who accompanied Jesus, and to us today.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos have been posted to The Catholic Post’s page on Facebook.