Hightstown parish welcomes 22 new Catholics at Easter Vigil

April 2, 2024 at 12:18 p.m.
|
Updated April 2, 2024 at 12:18 p.m.
Father Oscar Sumanga, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, and Father Arian Wharff, parochial vicar, are pictured with the newly initiated parishioners following the March 30 Easter Vigil. Hal Brown photo
Father Oscar Sumanga, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, and Father Arian Wharff, parochial vicar, are pictured with the newly initiated parishioners following the March 30 Easter Vigil. Hal Brown photo

By John Spinelli, Correspondent

The Resurrection of Jesus “is the most profound act of love the world has ever known,” Father Oscar Sumanga, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, told the congregation at the Easter Vigil March 30.

“Jesus defied death,” said Father Sumanga. Jesus emerging from the tomb “is a testament of the boundless power of God. … It is the cornerstone of our faith. Jesus, our God, rose from the dead and gave us life. … Death does not have the final say.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Easter Vigil in St. Anthony of Padua Church, Hightstown

The Vigil — the high point of the Church’s liturgical year — began outdoors, where the Easter fire was blessed and the Paschal candle was lit. Carrying the Paschal candle, Deacon Tom Garvey led the procession into the darkened church. The flame was used to light the taper candles the congregants held.

In his homily, Father Sumanga cautioned that while Easter gives the faithful a chance for new life, “it doesn’t magically erase” the challenges they face, the burdens they carry or personal struggles such as fractured families, a world seemingly at odds with itself, and even the Church, which grapples with its own path in a world that seems to move ever faster.

But Christ, like the angel rolling away the stone at the tomb, offers the key to break free from all the struggles, Father Sumanga said.

That is done “by living the Gospel message in a way that speaks to our times,” such as fostering compassion, actively extending a hand to those in need, embodying forgiveness and letting go of resentment “that could weigh us down.”

Families, he continued, can “rekindle the spirit of Easter together” by creating a safe space for open communication, prioritizing time for shared meals and prayers, and remembering that forgiveness and understanding form the cornerstone of a loving home.

Father Sumanga said the parish community should follow the path that lies in embracing the core values of the Catholic Church by being bearers of hope, champions for the downtrodden and a place where all are loved and welcome, regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs.

“This new life given to us is about living the Resurrection in the here and now,” he said.

New Beginnings 

During the Mass, 22 elect in the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults were fully initiated into the Church, receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

“What led me to the faith was my fiancée,” said Emilio Robles, one of those initiated.

Noting that he did not grow up with any religion, he said he and his future wife want to “set a foundation in Christ for our future children.”

Aramary Pantado said she equates her Baptism with placing “full trust in God.”

Noting that she was inspired to become Catholic during the time when her father was detained for two years, she said, “I spoke to God, and he really helped me through that tough time a few years ago.

“I found the strength to come back to the Church and formally get baptized,” she said.

After two years of attending RCIA and finally receiving her Sacraments, Pantado said she prays that “everyone finds their way to God, because it's really something beautiful that you could experience.”

Impact of RCIA

The parish’s longtime RCIA coordinators, Rosemarie Constable and Steve Pavone, reflected on how meaningful it was to accompany the 22 women and men on their journeys to the Church.

Each Easter Vigil, Constable said, “gives me the feeling that there's something new going to happen in the church.”

“When I see the catechumens receive the Sacraments, there is an ambiance. We had a great class this year,” she said.

Pavone added that he is continuously amazed by each RCIA class.

“Our parish truly is the universal Church,” he said, adding that parishioners come from all over the world — India, Africa, Philippines, Eastern Europe and almost all Latin American countries.

“This is my favorite day of the year,” Pavone said of the Easter Vigil. “It reminds me to renew my own faith every day.”

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The Resurrection of Jesus “is the most profound act of love the world has ever known,” Father Oscar Sumanga, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, told the congregation at the Easter Vigil March 30.

“Jesus defied death,” said Father Sumanga. Jesus emerging from the tomb “is a testament of the boundless power of God. … It is the cornerstone of our faith. Jesus, our God, rose from the dead and gave us life. … Death does not have the final say.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Easter Vigil in St. Anthony of Padua Church, Hightstown

The Vigil — the high point of the Church’s liturgical year — began outdoors, where the Easter fire was blessed and the Paschal candle was lit. Carrying the Paschal candle, Deacon Tom Garvey led the procession into the darkened church. The flame was used to light the taper candles the congregants held.

In his homily, Father Sumanga cautioned that while Easter gives the faithful a chance for new life, “it doesn’t magically erase” the challenges they face, the burdens they carry or personal struggles such as fractured families, a world seemingly at odds with itself, and even the Church, which grapples with its own path in a world that seems to move ever faster.

But Christ, like the angel rolling away the stone at the tomb, offers the key to break free from all the struggles, Father Sumanga said.

That is done “by living the Gospel message in a way that speaks to our times,” such as fostering compassion, actively extending a hand to those in need, embodying forgiveness and letting go of resentment “that could weigh us down.”

Families, he continued, can “rekindle the spirit of Easter together” by creating a safe space for open communication, prioritizing time for shared meals and prayers, and remembering that forgiveness and understanding form the cornerstone of a loving home.

Father Sumanga said the parish community should follow the path that lies in embracing the core values of the Catholic Church by being bearers of hope, champions for the downtrodden and a place where all are loved and welcome, regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs.

“This new life given to us is about living the Resurrection in the here and now,” he said.

New Beginnings 

During the Mass, 22 elect in the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults were fully initiated into the Church, receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

“What led me to the faith was my fiancée,” said Emilio Robles, one of those initiated.

Noting that he did not grow up with any religion, he said he and his future wife want to “set a foundation in Christ for our future children.”

Aramary Pantado said she equates her Baptism with placing “full trust in God.”

Noting that she was inspired to become Catholic during the time when her father was detained for two years, she said, “I spoke to God, and he really helped me through that tough time a few years ago.

“I found the strength to come back to the Church and formally get baptized,” she said.

After two years of attending RCIA and finally receiving her Sacraments, Pantado said she prays that “everyone finds their way to God, because it's really something beautiful that you could experience.”

Impact of RCIA

The parish’s longtime RCIA coordinators, Rosemarie Constable and Steve Pavone, reflected on how meaningful it was to accompany the 22 women and men on their journeys to the Church.

Each Easter Vigil, Constable said, “gives me the feeling that there's something new going to happen in the church.”

“When I see the catechumens receive the Sacraments, there is an ambiance. We had a great class this year,” she said.

Pavone added that he is continuously amazed by each RCIA class.

“Our parish truly is the universal Church,” he said, adding that parishioners come from all over the world — India, Africa, Philippines, Eastern Europe and almost all Latin American countries.

“This is my favorite day of the year,” Pavone said of the Easter Vigil. “It reminds me to renew my own faith every day.”

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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