Scores of parishioners participate in the Easter Vigil in St. Joseph Church.
Scores of parishioners participate in the Easter Vigil in St. Joseph Church.
When the “New Fire” of Easter was kindled outside St. Joseph Church in Toms River April 16 at the Easter Vigil, 36 men, women and young people who had prepared over the past year for full initiation into the Catholic Church were among the hundreds basking in its glow.

Their eyes followed the new fire symbolizing Christ, the Light of the World, as it spread slowly from the candles held by those gathered down the aisle of the great nave in the church as the chanted notes of the “Exsultet,” or Easter Proclamation, rang out.

Photo Gallery: Easter Vigil in St. Joseph Church, Toms River

They listened as Readings followed which included the story of Creation; Responsorial Psalms and prayers, and the powerful message of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection that brought them at last to their sacramental initiation as new members of the Catholic Church.

During this long liturgy of light, faith and renewal – considered by countless among the faithful as “the Mother of all Vigils,” – the 36 would be affirmed in Full Communion with the Church by their pastor, Father Scott Shaffer, and heartily welcomed by nearly 1,000 of their fellow parishioners, family and friends.

Good News

In his homily, Father Shaffer had urged the 14 elect and 22 candidates who prepared through their parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process, to think of this journey not as an end but an opening of the door to a new beginning.

He commended them for their devotion in finishing a “year of learning the beauties of the faith,” a profound undertaking leading some to Baptism, others to making a profession of faith, all to First Eucharist and Confirmation.

“But the journey isn’t finished,” Father Shaffer advised.

Drawing from the Gospel, he cited the women who went to the tomb where Jesus’ body, thinking to anoint his body and, finding him missing, ran from the tomb to spread the word that he had risen.

“This is only the beginning,” he said. “Let us be like the women running from the tomb to tell the Good News.”

To Live the Faith

Chantelle Corbo has taken that advice to heart. For her, an elect in the RCIA, receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist at the Easter Vigil marked the beginning of a journey she has looked forward to from the “first moment” she walked through the doors of St. Joseph Church last summer.

Among 14 parishioners to receive the Sacraments of Initiation, the new mother of a two-month-old named Richard Thomas after his father, Corbo was raised by a Catholic father and a Jewish mother who were not religious.

She said of her faith journey: “The love and trust in God, knowing that he loves us and is present and is working in our lives every day has been life changing.” She added, “I met the most wonderful people in RCIA and at church. I can’t wait to give back and serve our community as they did.”

Scarlett DeDreux, one of 22 candidates, also came from an interfaith background. A baptized Christian, she mainly attended Protestant churches while growing up but said the most important religious influence while growing up was her devout maternal Catholic grandmother.

“I went to Mass with her. She always talked to me about being in the RCIA and gave me my grandfather’s Catechism. She thought I would need it someday. It took me a long time as far as RCIA was concerned. I was ready to do this for years, but this year, it just really worked out,” said DeReux, noting that she’s a new mom to 11-week old, Lucien. “It’s been a whole wonderful experience.”

Deacon Edward Woram, who became the parish RCIA coordinator seven months ago, shared his perspective that the best part was looking out over the throng at the Easter Vigil and seeing so many “people who were excited” that 36 elect and candidates were coming into the Church.

“It made the night. Watching them watch people making their Sacraments” he said, adding that he looks forward to baptizing some of the newborn babies of the elect and candidates.