By Katie Vasquez
The pews at Resurrection Ascension Church in Rego Park are not packed with parishioners.
They’re packed with soon to be Catholics, Elojde Berliku.
“It’s very exciting,” said Elojde Berliku. “Like I’m almost there at the finish line.”
Berliku and hundreds of others have been studying the faith in the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, or OCIA program.
Sunday marked an important step in their faith journey.
They participated in the Rite of Election, a time-honored ritual marking the church’s election, or choice of those deemed fit to receive the sacraments at the Easter vigil.
“I’m really looking forward to ending my journey with this,” Berliku said. “And then, like, a new journey begins.”
In two services on Sunday, one for Brooklyn and one for Queens, Bishop Robert Brennan welcomed 447 catechumens – or people who have never been baptized.
“These catchumens help to remind us of that gift. And when you see people who weren’t brought up Catholics, maybe brought up in another faith, or maybe with no faith, but to see them freely embracing the faith, choosing to be Catholic,” Bishop Brennan said. “It does something for us. All of a sudden now we realize, Wow, yeah, this is something really important.”
The group of diverse adults represents the Diocese of Immigrants and as such, vicar for evangelization and catechesis, Father Joseph Gibino, said this year’s Rite of Election reflects that.
“We’re doing something for the first time this year,” Father Gibino said. “One of the readings, the first reading will be done in Chinese because we have now such an international community that many of the newly baptized will be from parts of Asia. So it’s really important to recognize the diversity of our diocese.
One such story is Shu Zhen Song, she was born in China and came to the U.S. as a student.
She’s converting so she can marry in the church and has been studying since September.
“I was so excited because my family doesn’t believe doesn’t have this religion and I have no background,” Song said. “But since I learning, I feel, wow, the Catholic is very a new world to me. And then I feel. So this today’s ceremony, I mean, celebration is new to me. I want to have this experience and want to learn and get that step forward.”
While the Diocese of Brooklyn is happy to see the church grow, Bishop Brennan said this day isn’t about the amount of people preparing to be baptized.
“It’s not about numbers,” Bishop Brennan said. “It’s about people who are encountering Jesus Christ and encountering him to the sacramental life of the church. And to see that that’s happening is a source of great hope for us.”
You can read more about Sunday’s Rite of Election by going online to TheTablet.Org.
If you would like to start your own journey to joining the Catholic faith.
All you have to do is head down to your local parish.
To find a church near you go to DioceseofBrooklyn.Org and click on the “Parish Finder” in the upper right hand corner.