By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Sometimes the newest Catholics are the best evangelizers.
Deborah Kerr entered the Roman Catholic Church at Easter Vigil last year at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Independence.
This year, it will be her parents, mother Sue Patton and stepfather Phil Patton.
“I saw may daughter become Catholic and I just felt like I was in the house of God for the first time in my life,” Sue Patton said.
Ever since that Easter Vigil a year ago, Sue and Phil Patton haven’t missed a Sunday going to Mass with Deborah and her husband, Greg Kerr.
“I never been to church before,” Phil said. “I have a lot of friends who are Catholic, and I always said if I ever found a church, it would be the Catholic Church.”
Phil Patton was one of 109 adult catechumens — those who had never been baptized in any Christian tradition — to take part in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion in one of three liturgies March 8 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City and March 9 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Sue Patton, who is coming into full communion from the Methodist tradition, was one of 239 candidates who participated, and who will receive the sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist at Easter Vigil.
Breani Winston, 11, was one of another 71 catechumens aged 7 to 17 who will be received into the church, bringing the total number of catechumens and candidates at this year’s rites to 419.
Breani said she was led into the church by the example of a veteran Catholic — her grandmother Pamela Singleton.
“I just want to become a Catholic,” she said she told her grandmother last September.
“My heart was absolutely racing,” said Singleton, a member of St. John Francis Regis Parish in Kansas City.
“I was so excited. This is the only grandchild I have who wanted to be Catholic,” she said.
Others, like Rhonda Crews who will join the church at Sacred Heart Parish in Warrensburg, heard another call.
“I am doing this because I’ve been called by God to join the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” said Crews, who is coming from the Baptist tradition.
Whatever brought them to seek full communion with the Catholic Church, be grateful for it and rejoice, Bishop Robert W. Finn said in his homily before personally welcoming each catechumen and candidate.
“To those candidates who are entering the church this Easter from other Christian denominations, know that the gift of faith you received in your Baptism is not discarded or diminished by your entrance into the Catholic Church,” he said.
“The faith that has been given to you by your parents, family, teacher and friends is a great give for which we are all thankful,” the bishop said.
“It will only be deepened as you take this next step on the journey by which Christ calls you into fuller communion with himself,” Bishop Finn said.
The catechumens, he said, will receive Baptism for the first time in their lives.
“You will be washed in the life-giving waters of Baptism and you will begin to live in Christ, really for the first time,” he said.
Catechumens and candidates will receive “a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation” and then will receive “the most intimate gift Christ gave us on this earth.”
“You candidates and catechumens will partake of his own body and blood in the Holy Eucharist,” Bishop Finn said.
“This is the gift of himself to you: ‘Take, eat, this is my body which will be given up for you. Take, drink, this is the cup of my blood of the new and eternal covenant. It will be shed for you and for many so that sins may be forgiven,’” he said.
“On that first Good Friday, he further defined and consummated the Eucharistic gift by his suffering and death — the total gift and sacrifice of himself — so that you and I might have life,” Bishop Finn said.
Bishop Finn also reminded the catechumens, candidates and their sponsors of “another gift Christ gave to the church.”
“At the foot of his cross on Calvary, he looked upon the disciple whom he loved and said, ‘There is your mother,’” Bishop Finn said.
“I pray you will come to see in Mary, the poor Virgin of Nazareth, a great friend in your path toward Christ, a consoling mother, and a patient and loving teacher,” he said.
“Dear friends, Christ calls you to the fullness of life in his one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” Bishop Finn said.
“As successor to the Apostles, it is my great pleasure 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.