By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — The family that prays together stays together, as the late “Rosary Priest” Father Patrick Peyton was famous for saying.
But what about the family that gets baptized together?
Donald Bowlin knew it would happen someday. But someday came pretty soon after his nine-year-old son River knocked him over with a simple, but direct question:
“Dad?” he asked. “If I don’t believe in God, will I go to heaven?”
It was time for Donald, River, and 11-year-old Brooke to take that step and be baptized in faith for the first time in their lives. And it was time for the children’s mother, Angela Torres-Bowlin, to return to the faith she stopped practicing long ago.
“I was baptized as a child and I grew up in the faith, but I’ve been away,” Angela said. No particular reason for being away, but two huge reasons to come back, she said.
“My children need faith,” Angela said. “I feel it is important, and I will have my children growing up in the faith I grew up in.”
The Bowlins, who are entering the church at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, were among the 186 catechumens — those who have never been baptized — and 253 candidates — those who have been baptized in a Christian tradition and are now seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church — who took a major step in faith at one of three Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion liturgies, two at Kansas City’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Feb. 16 and one at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph Feb. 17.
At the liturgy, both catechumens and candidates with their sponsors promised to complete the journey to full union that will take place at the March 30 Easter Vigil in the parish communities they are entering and where they have studied the faith in preparation for several months.
In addition, catechumens signed the Book of the Elect to make their commitment official.
The 439 catechumens and candidates included several families.
They also included 62 from one parish alone, Our Lady of the Presentation in Lee’s Summit, who are being led to the faith by RCIA director Mary Pat Storms.
They included Doug and Mindy Coleman, who will be baptized with their three children aged 4, 2, and 10 months.
The two young parents said that they grew up well-meaning parents who chose to allow their children to choose which tradition for baptism and when.
It really didn’t work for either of them, they said.
“There was a lot of confusion, and I didn’t want to see that happen in my family,” Doug said.
There was no “Ah ha!” moment, Doug said. It was more of a desire for faith, and for unity within their family that led the parents to bring their family to the Catholic Church.
“It was nothing over the top,” he said. “It just felt like this was the route to go. The bigger purpose is pulling our family together in one faith. At the end of the day, with all the Christian faiths, it causes confusion and differences in a family. It’s about the greater good of pulling the family together, not apart.”
Mindy said that she and Doug decided, even with time pressures of providing for and raising a young family, that there was no better time than now.
“Life just kind of got away from us, and our priorities were misguided,” Mindy said, explaining why they didn’t take this step when their first child was born.
“Now, we are trying to get our priorities in order,” she said.
Bishop Robert W. Finn told the catechumens and candidates that while every year is special, this particular group of faithful continuing their journey to Easter Vigil is unique.
Likely before Easter Vigil, the College of Cardinals will have elected a new pope to lead the church. And they will enter the church during the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by the outgoing Pope Benedict XVI.
He reminded the candidates and catechumens that the pope is “just a man, but one called by Christ, as was St. Peter, to be his representative on earth, to teach, to lead and sanctify in Christ’s name.”
He also reminded the candidates that the Catholic Church values their Christian baptisms.
“Know that the gift of faith that you received in your baptism is not discarded or diminished by your entrance in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Finn said. “The faith that has been given to you by your parents, family, teachers and friends is a great gift for which we are all thankful. It will only be deepened as you take the next step on the journey which Christ calls you to a fuller communion with himself.”
Bishop Finn reminded the catechumens and candidates that they are entering a “life of grace.”
“The life of grace that is begun in us in baptism makes us, unworthy as we are, nonetheless Children of God, heirs to the life of heaven, and even now we become cooperators and participants in the very work of redemption in Christ,” he said.
“This is the royal priesthood of the faithful, such that our actions done in faith and charity, always in union with Christ, apart from whom we can do nothing, these works become meritorious and helpful to our salvation,” he said.
He also reminded the catechumens and candidates of the gift Christ on the cross gave to the church of his very mother.
“I pray you will come to see in Mary, the poor Virgin of Nazareth, a great friend in your path to Christ, a consoling mother and a patient and loving teacher,” Bishop Finn said.
“Christ calls you to the fullness of life in his one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” he said.
“As a successor to the Apostles, it is my great privilege to affirm you in your faith, to enroll you among the elect, and to call you to continuing conversion in Christ,” he said.
“May God who has begun a great work in you bring it to fulfillment,” Bishop Finn said.