By Mary Morrell | Contributing Editor
and Christina Leslie | Correspondent
It was after a serious car accident from which she walked away unscathed that Ashley Wood realized it was time to become fully initiated into the Church.
Wood, a parishioner of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, was born in Virginia, where her father was stationed with the Navy. She was baptized and received First Holy Communion in New Jersey parishes, but she never received her Confirmation.
Wood recalled that faith was integrated into her life by her 93-year-old grandmother, who still watches Mass every day on television and prays the Rosary every night. “I felt something was missing in me, and would question things about my faith,” Wood said.
After the accident, her mom suggested she be confirmed, reminding her that “something ‘bigger’ helped me that day,” Wood said.
Wood was among the faithful who journeyed to the Sacrament of Confirmation as an adult; she received the Sacrament at this year’s Easter Vigil on April 20. In all, there were a reported 433 adult candidates from around the Diocese confirmed at the Easter Vigil or on Pentecost Sunday, June 9.
Similarly, adult confirmandi Jessica Acosta of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, found her faith experience “exciting from start to finish.”
“I got back into the Church after my best friend through high school passed away, and I began dating someone who went to Catholic school his entire life,” Acosta said. “I was desperately looking for answers … and I thought I would find comfort in going to Mass. I hadn’t been to church since I was nine, and I didn’t remember what it was like, but I knew I needed it back in my life.”
Religious instruction proved exhilarating, she said, recalling, “Everything about this experience was new, exciting and surprising. I didn’t remember anything from when I was younger, and hearing the Scriptures and the Gospel as an adult was a whole new outlook. I enjoyed it every step of the way.
“The Sacrament of Confirmation means that I am 100 percent back in the Church to stay,” she said. “Completing this as an adult was such a fulfilling feeling. I look forward to going to Mass once a week; I pray for myself and others in ways I didn’t before.
“I feel like I found exactly what I was looking for,” she said. “I just feel complete.”
Wood, who connected with Deacon William Palmisano, director of religious education in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, for her sacramental preparation, said one of her most memorable moments was a review of the Our Father, line-by-line, and the lesson of forgiveness in the prayer.
“I have a quick temper,” Wood admitted. “This has helped me to be more understanding, to reflect on how our actions impact others.”
Wood expressed feeling both excited and nervous when she was confirmed, but she was “grateful it happened this way, to have a chance to reflect on my faith and come away with a deeper understanding.”