Deacon Jim Knipper lights the Paschal Candle with the newly blessed Easter fire. Mike Ehrmann photo
Deacon Jim Knipper lights the Paschal Candle with the newly blessed Easter fire. Mike Ehrmann photo
“Jesus’ Resurrection is about new life, different life, transformed life, a completely different order of existence,” Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., said in his homily in St. Paul Church, Princeton, where he was principal celebrant of the Great Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, April 16.  

“Jesus rose from the dead leaving death behind him,” the Bishop said. The tomb is empty. Easter is about glory and triumph. The world would never be the same again because in Jesus, death was no longer the end. Life was transformed and made completely new. And Easter is the first moment when that happened." 

Photo Gallery: Great Easter Vigil in St. Paul Church, Princeton

The faithful in St. Paul Church joined their Catholic brothers and sisters from throughout the Diocese and around the world in celebrating on this most holy night that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead and his promise that all believers can share in his eternal glory. 

Many parishioners gathered on the outdoor plaza of the Nassau Street Church to witness the blessing of the Easter Fire by Bishop O’Connell and lighting of the Paschal Candle. Once inside, they heard the singing of the Easter Proclamation [Exultet] and the proclaiming of Scripture Readings retelling Salvation History. They watched Bishop O’Connell bless the baptismal water and they joined renewing their baptismal promises.  

In parishes across the Diocese of Trenton, new members were joyfully welcomed into the Catholic faith through the reception and completion of the Sacraments of Initiation. The new members, who received their formation in their parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process, included the 163 elect who were to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist and 367 baptized candidates who were to be confirmed and receive First Eucharist. In St. Paul Church, Bishop O’Connell baptized 10 elect and confirmed 11 individuals.

“So many things go on during the Easter Vigil that we can become liturgically overwhelmed,” Bishop O’Connell said. “That experience is as it should be precisely because no event in human history is as overwhelming as the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” 

Reiterating that Easter is the “heart of our faith, the reason for our faith, it’s the goal of our faith and it is the reward of our faith, Bishop O’Connell said, “There is no more significant human expression than faith in Jesus’ Resurrection. 

“We who call ourselves Catholic Christians, who live as Catholic Christians, have nothing to fear in this world or from this world as difficult as life’s situations can sometimes be,” the Bishop said.  

“In our Easter faith, we encounter the Risen Lord Jesus Christ who takes us by the hand to walk with us, and we walk with him, now and for all eternity.” 

Addressing those celebrating their full Christian Initiation into the Catholic Church, Bishop O’Connell said that “tonight represents the end of a period of preparation – preparation to belong to the community of faith that is universal and that is, at the same time, local, here and now in the Diocese of Trenton and its parishes, this parish family. As your Bishop and a Successor to the Apostles, I have the awesome privilege of welcoming you and of opening the doors through which you pass,” he said.  

“The waters of Baptism lead you from death to new life in Christ. The Oil of Chrism in Confirmation strengthens you for a life of Catholic faith and service. The Holy Eucharist feeds you with the Bread of Life, the very Body and Blood of Christ, not just tonight but from now on, every time you come to Mass, until the day you die,” the Bishop said. “All of these great things that we share tonight – you who are new in the Catholic Church and we who have belonged for a long time – these great things are made possible because Jesus Christ lived and died and rose from the dead – things bound together in what we call the Paschal Mystery!” 

The significance of the Easter Vigil and having the added “honor” of being baptized by Bishop O’Connell was not lost on Tyler Barney, an elect from St. Paul Parish. 

“Our group met the Bishop at Rite of Election [on March 6, the First Sunday of Lent] and he told us he was going to be here for the Easter Vigil,” Barney recalled.  

“I was excited when I found out that I was going to be baptized by the Bishop,” Barney said, telling of how he was introduced to the Catholic faith when he met his girlfriend, Christie and her family nine years ago.  

“Until then, I never went to church but I started going with Christie and I fell in love with it and everything it meant,” Barney said, noting that Christie is now his fiancé and they are looking forward to their Catholic wedding on May 20. 

Barney explained that he had started the RCIA in 2020 but his formation was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

If nothing else, “I learned that things happen in God’s time,” Barney said. “My becoming Catholic has been two years in the making and I had to wait. But tonight was the night. Tonight was the night when God said it could happen.”