One would think that St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which seats 2,500 people in the nave alone, would be sufficient for the Archdiocese of New York. But I am beginning to wonder.
Last Sunday and the Sunday before, men and women seeking full initiation in our Church this coming Easter poured into the Cathedral, accompanied by their godparents or sponsors, their pastors, by the parish RCIA teams who are shepherding them on their faith journey, by their families, and by their friends. They filled those seats.
On the first Sunday of Lent, at the Rite of Election, the catechumens – about 600 according to our registration numbers – made their way down the nearly 365-foot main aisle as their individual names were called, to sign the Book of the Elect in the presence of Archbishop Dolan. These catechumens hopefully will be baptized, confirmed and receive First Eucharist in their parish churches on the evening of April 3 at the Easter Vigil.
This past Sunday, undaunted by all the snow that had fallen, more than 700 already-baptized Christians arrived for the Call to Continuing Conversion. This Call is for Christians of other denominations who wish to join our Church, as well as for baptized Catholics who have not yet received the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist. Like the catechumens, these candidates are on a journey to the Easter Vigil, when they will receive those two sacraments.
In one of the great moments of this service, the candidates were called into the sanctuary to stand around Archbishop Dolan as he sat on his cathedra. Believe me when I tell you: there was not an unoccupied inch on the floor of the sanctuary. In fact, the crowd overflowed into the crossing aisle
I had the chance to sit and watch the service on the Cathedral television monitors. It was such a joy to see the happy faces of the candidates in the sanctuary and the proud smiles of their supporters in the pews. Archbishop Dolan lifted up and held two small children, who gazed around and seemed totally unfazed by all the excitement.
Another 200 or so candidates were scheduled to attend the same rite in Newburgh, N.Y., at the Church of the Sacred Heart. But Newburgh, like all the rest of Orange County, was buried in snow. Don’t worry. It will happen next Sunday.
Even though we are deep in the penitential season of Lent, these two events were occasions for rejoicing. Archbishop Dolan said he found hard to resist crying out, “Alleluia.” Never mind. We’ll all sing out our alleluias at Easter and again on Sunday, May 16, when all these wonderful, fully initiated members of the Catholic Church will return to the Cathedral for the 10:15 Mass.