SAN DIEGO — In the Diocese of San Diego, almost 900 people are preparing to become Catholic this Easter.
These include 230 adult catechumens – those who have never been baptized – and 612 adult candidates – those who were baptized but have yet to receive their First Communion or confirmation – as well as 46 child catechumens and candidates. (Last year, there were 256 catechumens and 401 candidates.)
They come from diverse backgrounds and have followed their own unique paths toward the Catholic faith.
Among them is Jessica Dempsey, who is participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process at Corpus Christi Parish in Bonita.
Her brother’s suicide in July 2020 played a significant role in leading her to the Catholic Church.
“It was a very sad time for me, especially with the pandemic and lockdowns happening,” she recalled. “Although I loved my Evangelical church and I learned a lot about being a Christian there, I was struggling to relate to the messages. As time went on, I felt as if I was being left to read the Bible on my own and guide myself, which led me to ask: Why go to church?”
That Christmas Eve, she watched an online Mass with her husband and took comfort from the priest’s homily. She began looking into the history of the Catholic Church, coming to recognize it as the Church founded by Jesus. Her research also provided an answer to her question about why going to church is important: Jesus is present in the Eucharist.
“Since deciding to join the Church, I’ve learned so much about what the Kingdom of God is and what being a part of it means,” she said. “It has truly expanded and deepened my faith.”
For Tevita Mickelsen, becoming Catholic “was always going to be a part of my journey.”
He and his wife recently adopted their foster daughter and enrolled her in the religious education program at Mater Dei Parish in Chula Vista. It seemed like an appropriate time for him to take the next step in his own faith journey.
“We’ve always wanted to build our family in the Catholic faith and Church,” said Mickelsen. “My experience so far has been nothing but amazing. I’m always excited to go to church on Sunday with my wife and daughter and, each week, I look forward to participating in the RCIA sessions.”
He said, “I love the process and I’m excited to continue in the faith and see what the future has for us, with God and this faith by our side.”
Sarai Rubalcava, currently in the RCIA process at Santa Sophia Parish in Spring Valley, has taken a “long and somewhat varied” path to where she is today.
She grew up in a Catholic family that attended Mass only on Christmas and Easter; she visited numerous Pentecostal and Baptist churches with friends, was baptized in a non-denominational megachurch, and had a Catholic wedding.
When her husband joined the choir at Santa Sophia Parish, she accepted his invitation to do the same. She said it was at the parish that she “felt the need to understand Mass and the multitude of Catholic traditions.”
“One thing that continues to motivate me on this journey to becoming a Catholic is the beautiful reverence for God that is displayed in every tradition and Mass that I have been a part of thus far,” she said. “It’s amazing how it feeds my spirit and makes me feel closer to God.”
Throughout their 22-year marriage, Michael Decker’s wife has prayed that he might become Catholic.
Today, Decker feels “spiritually stronger” since entering the RCIA process at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Vista. Every day, he prays the rosary, makes a “spiritual communion,” and performs an examination of conscience.
“My growth in the knowledge of salvation history and present understanding has become a hunger that I must feed through Lord Jesus as never before in my life,” he said. “My reverence and zeal (are) magnified using the liturgical calendar and all the Catholic faith has to offer.”
In March, the diocese’s catechumens and candidates will attend the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, an annual liturgy where they are presented to the diocesan bishop and proclaimed ready to receive the sacraments of initiation at their parishes at the Easter Vigil.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rite of Election was celebrated as one massive gathering at a non-parish location, like Golden Hall in downtown San Diego or the Town & Country Convention Center in Mission Valley.
Like last year’s, the Rite of Election this year will be separated as three separate parish-based liturgies to ensure social distancing: one on Saturday, March 5, at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Imperial and two others on Sunday, March 6, at Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa.
It is a ticketed event and not open to the general public. The liturgies will be livestreamed at www.sdcatholic.org/roe.
Collectively, 68 of the diocese’s 97 parishes will be represented and 2,676 people will be in attendance. These include the catechumens and candidates, as well as their sponsors, guests and members of their parish RCIA teams.