Record number of confirmations in one US diocese

I enjoyed this story from CNA:

Record number confirmed in Baltimore, despite recent media attacks on Church

Baltimore, Md., Apr 6, 2010 / 07:02 am (CNA).- Despite the recent media attacks on the Church and Holy Father regarding clergy sex abuse scandals, one U.S. archdiocese set a record for confirming the most individuals in its history to the Catholic faith.

On Saturday, the Archdiocese of Baltimore confirmed a record 1,090 adults to the faith at the Easter Vigil Mass in parishes throughout the area, breaking the archdiocesan record for a second year in a row,  reported the Baltimore Sun on April 4.

“We’re on a roll, I guess,” said Archbishop Edwin O’Brien to the Baltimore Sun. Although the bishop said he would like to credit the archdiocesan staff for the record numbers, “the rubber hits the road in the parishes,” he explained. “It’s there where we find the real life of the Church.”

Local parishioner Rich Foster, 59, told the Baltimore Sun that the recently surfaced sex abuse scandals within the Church in the U.S. and Europe and the subsequent media attack on the Holy Father did not affect his decision to become Catholic.

“It reflects the frailties of all of us humans,” Foster said on Sunday. “We all have sinned … Part of what the church teaches us is reconciliation, redemption, and forgiveness.” An attendee of New All Saints Church in Baltimore, Foster described his church as “a congregation that I see doing wonderful work in terms of giving back to the community, being open and welcoming to both church members and the outside community.”

“I think that outweighs to me any concerns that may arise in this current controversy,” he added. “I trust my church will go forward in a righteous manner, dealing with these issues directly.”

The record 1,090 individuals confirmed on Saturday surpasses the 984 confirmed in 2009. According to Sharon Bogusz, coordinator of evangelization and adult catechesis for the Baltimore Archdiocese, approximately one quarter of those confirmed were the newly baptized. Others were baptized Catholic as infants but did not receive further sacraments and the majority of those confirmed were from others Christian backgrounds whose baptisms the Church recognizes.

“It’s wonderful,” Bogusz told the Baltimore Sun, “our parishes are really doing a lot of hard work and sharing news and welcome.”


I am very pleased about this good news.   At the same time, I think I would like to chat with some of those newly confirmed to find out what they know about their faith.   Still, this is a very good thing.  I hope it is the beginning of a trend.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. DavidJ says:

    It’s good to hear some wonderful news like this!

  2. Roman says:

    Great news indeed.In Dallas, TX there were 3000 that entered into the church as well. I was given the blessing of sponsoring a gentleman who was among the newly confirmed and who made first holy communion. Thanks be to God.

  3. TNCath says:

    It’s amazing. While we can all recount how sometimes (and perhaps often) the Church can make some very serious mistakes administratively, she still attracts so many into the Faith because the Faith is the one thing in which the Church cannot err.

  4. Christina says:

    This is great news to hear during all this negative media coverage for the Church! Whenever I read a new article or opinion slamming us, I try to remind myself that the Church’s people will still stand by her and this only a small problem overall, but it’s hard to hold onto that belief sometimes. This is really very encouraging!

  5. Truth wins out–often through small, almost imperceptible processes which occasionally gather together into larger streams and rivers. Do be gentle with the newbies–as a RCIA product myself (1992 in Nashville), I can attest that we do grow into our faith. Thank God it’s waiting there for us.

  6. lofstrr says:

    Our parish also hit a record this year for the total number of teens and adults coming into the Church at the Easter vigil. 32! This was also the first time I have sponsored someone. Between catechumens, candidates and their sponsors we had to move from the large classroom to the reception hall for our classes. A blessed problem to have indeed.

  7. MikeM says:

    I know a few of Baltimore’s new Catholics. Obviously they’re new to the Church and have more to learn, but the ones I know took their conversion seriously and have a pretty good grasp of their faith for newbies. :D

  8. SonofMonica says:

    I came into the Church this Easter as a candidate, and I studied the Catholic faith for 5 years beforehand. Intensively, even engaging in a lot of apologetics. However, I think we need to remember that the faith isn’t about how much you know. It’s about how much you trust and obey. To whom much is given…

  9. Maggie says:

    In our little Diocese we had about 350. More reasons to rejoice!

    Welcome home brothers and sisters.

  10. teevor says:

    My fiancee came into the Church at Easter through the RCIA process. There were a few there for the wrong reasons, who perhaps ought to have been challenged a bit more by the material (some individual instruction would have helped), for those who were earnest it seemed like they gained a lot and learned solid practice.

  11. wanda says:

    That’s how we roll here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore! We are thankful for our Bishop Edwin O’Brien, prayers please for him, he’s been under severe criticism since some planned school closings. May God bless and strengthen all our Bishops, they have an awfully hard job.

    Recently, I am very proud to say that the Archdiocese has filed suit against the City of Baltimore. The city passed a law/ordinance that forces our crisis pregnancy centers to post signs that state we do not do abortions (duh!) or provide birth control, etc. There would be a fine for failure to comply. Thanks to Archbishop O’Brien for his outspoken leadership on this issue.

  12. SonofMonica says:

    Forgot to add, in the Diocese of Little Rock we had 433. Down from 629 last year. Still, I count for more, cause I’m awesome. ;-)

  13. lucy says:

    My best friend and I came into the church in 1993. We were taught basically nothing. I have lamented for a long while that it would have been nice not to wander in the desert for 6 years after that. I didn’t grow because I didn’t know anything. I finally came to discover a wonderful Catholic bookstore owned by a woman who knew her faith and she shoved books at me and said, “here, read this”. I kept going back for more and finally learned my faith. However, my friend says that she was glad she didn’t learn anything, because all the rules we so lovingly follow now would have seemed like a lot of trouble then when she was new. We have both come to completely embrace our faith and our families are growing in our Catholic faith in a wonderful way. So, there’s all manner of reasons why things are the way they are. With God, all things are possible. Even if RCIA is lacking in any way, the Holy Spirit will show us the way if we look in the right places.

  14. I thought of waiting until your next “good news” post, but I think this serves as a good complement to your post. I spent Holy Week up in NH, and assisted at liturgies in the Archdiocese of Boston. Good Friday was spent at St. Mary’s Church in Lawrence, MA, and that good parish had 91 people received into the Church this year. 91 at one parish! It was such a hopeful sign in a diocese that was the center of the storm in the original breaking of the scandal, and I believe it confirms the work of the Holy Spirit blowing through our Church and battling against the forces of evil that desire our destruction.

  15. Randii says:

    I don’t think you can judge the impact the the recent scandals as being nil in terms of affecting conversions to the church by these stats. These converts have been in the process for a year or more.

    The number of confirmations next Easter will be a truer gauge.

    John Bachelor hosts a syndicated radio show and he talked about this with a guest last night.

    Bachelor was born Catholic but stated he is a Calvinist. His guest was a Hindu reporter for the WSJ. Both were quite fair in their examination of the situation.

    Bachelor said calls for the Pope’s prosecution were showboating though both agreed prosecution of Cardinals and bishops is a real possibility.

    But the telling point was Bachelor saying Protestants are here today because of risks taken by priests back in Reformation times. In other words abuses (he distinguised the abuses by the Catholic church in Reformation times being theological while the abuses today are secular) could lead to another mass exodus from the church.

    Bachelor and guest both said Benedict is a smart man and gets it and they believe he will take the drastic steps necessary to correct the situation. Both said Catholics will wait before judging the Pope’s response and taking action – the guest referred to the growing outrage among rank and file Catholics as a “tea party” of sorts.

    But the bottom line is IMO that one can’t point to a few dioceses this past Easter which had large confirmation numbers and assume that this means the crisis is or will not seriously impact the church in terms of conversions and loss of members.

  16. EXCHIEF says:

    Not to throw cold water but Fr Z’s expressed wish to talk with some of them to find out what they really know about the faith is important. In our small diocese several came into the Church this Easter that were “last minute” additions to the RCIA process. Historically in the cathedral parish the focus of conversions has been quantity not quality and the in-depth preparation that should have occured did not.

  17. Randii says:

    Good point EXCHIEF. I’ve heard on the Catholic radio station talk about how many converts to Catholicsm drop out after just a year or so. it’s a real problem – the relatively low retention on rate.

  18. floppy2 says:

    I also, would like, as Fr. Z says, to ask some of these folks if they really understand just what being a Catholic is really all about. I, as a convert, have seen drop outs and they are far too many. My husband is examining the church and we had an interesting convversation on the trip back from VA to CT just this past weekend. He asked questions because he wanted to understand just what the church teaches and is afraid he will not make a good Catholic. At least he is being honest. How many of those who come into the Church are honestly going to adhere to the faith thru thick and thin? Will they become anti-Catholic advocates after they drop out?

    I would like to ask them WHY they decided to convert. What kind of catechisis did they receive? Do they actually understand what it means to be a Catholic? I knew once I came into the Church, it was hand to the ploy and NO looking back!

    Some folks just don’t want to commit to real conversion after the Easter vigil is over. It’s that “being a Catholic day to day” that seems to get the ones I have seen drop out. Others say “too many rules I did not think about” and in my mind, do not want to obey!! Others who left had high expectations of Catholics that just did not materialise. They thought Catholics just have to be better at religious adherance than all those other Christians. SUPRISE!!

    Others like the smells and bells and all the cool clothes the priests wear. They like the “feeling” that being a Catholic produces. They depend on emotional experience to make being Catholic real. One that becomes boring…out they go.

    I try to stay near new converts and help them increase in their faith. So little of what living a Catholic life is taught that it must now be done in the pew.


  19. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Z: I would like to chat with some of those newly confirmed to find out what they know about their faith.

    I hope you would find that they are better catechized than my kids were from their CCD classes. To this day, they can tell you almost nothing about the Catholic faith. The nice ladies and the epicene gentleman that taught the classes were armed with a lot of comic books, but a Baltimore Catechism was ne’er to be seen. As an example, they think that a married clergy and lady priests are a solution to the abuse scandal.

    Bishop Sheen was right. It would be easier to evangelise the Mohammedans. As a start, they at least believe in the Virgin Birth.

  20. DanielKane says:

    Over 2000 were received in Atlanta this Easter Vigil and typically the number easily exceeds 1000. But Atlanta is not (yet) dominated by Catholics as is the “Premier See”.

  21. AnAmericanMother says:

    We had a good share of those at our parish.

    Our RCIA program is solid and orthodox. We came in sideways, as it were, and did not go through the program, but my daughter went through Confirmation class here and it was thorough, stringent, and orthodox (term paper! written exam! oral exam!) My daughter was initially a bit annoyed because she had just undergone Episcopalian confirmation class (which was a great big zero) and dreaded another round of nonsense. She was pleasantly surprised and loved the class.

    What’s more, our confirmands were the first class for the new archbishop, and he decided to start off with a bang and examined each candidate on live mike . . . that’s when our Education Director and the Parochial Vicar in charge started having kittens . . . but the kids did everyone proud and gave the archbishop every reason to have confidence in our parish’s education program.

  22. Randii says:

    “Some folks just don’t want to commit to real conversion after the Easter vigil is over. It’s that “being a Catholic day to day” that seems to get the ones I have seen drop out. Others say “too many rules I did not think about” and in my mind, do not want to obey!! Others who left had high expectations of Catholics that just did not materialise. They thought Catholics just have to be better at religious adherance than all those other Christians. SUPRISE!!”

    Not a surprise bjr. I’d add another factor why many converts end up leaving the chucrh.

    Those are the growing scandals.

    The editor of the Dallas paper, R. Dreher, was a much touted convert to Catholicsm from evangelicalism a while back.

    What he found once he converted drove him ultimately out of the church and he converted to Orthodoxy. For Dreher it wasn’t so much the scandals as the cover-up by many bishops of the scandals.

    Dreher has become a prominent Christian critic of the Catholic church and is drawing a lot of Catholics to convert to Orthodoxy. He goes after this with a missionary zeal and sometimes the most effective missionaries for Orthodoxy are not those born and bred but the converts from Catholicsm and evangelicalism.

    BTW, Dreher came into Catholicism fully aware of the theolgy and its radical difference from his evangelical upbringing. He didn’t convert to Catholcism lite or to become a cafeterian Catholic. The loss of orthodox converts like Dreher is far more troubling IMO than that of casual converts who were not fully instructed in Catholic theolgy or didn’t know about all the “rules”.

  23. rakesvines says:

    I too am hopeful contrasting this with the debaptisms across the pond.

  24. Roland de Chanson says:

    Randii, I don’t want to derail this thread, but I think you have done Rod Dreher an injustice in characterizing his criticism of the Church as excessively zealous. He has been in my opinion usually very fair in his discussions of the scandals. He has also posted on the scandals within Orthodoxy (OCA). BTW, I know nothing about him but what he posts on his blog.

    I do agree that his conversion to Orthodoxy was a loss to the Church. His would be a cogent voice for reform were he still a Catholic. Let us hope that Benedict and Kirill take the next step in drawing East and West back together so that someday we may again be one. Benedicat Deus Benedictum, Papam Unitatis Christianae.

  25. Randii says:

    Roland, I didn’t use the word zealous. That has negative connotations.

    It’s why I chose “missionary”. Mr. Dreher’s criticisms I agree have been very fair. A piece from him just posted above by Fr. Z is a perfect example. His is a devout Orthodox Chritian who can indeed criticize Orthodoxy but he sees the future of Chritianity and unity such as it will be coming from the Orthodox model. But that is a discussion for another thread.

  26. Roland de Chanson says:

    Randii, I apologise, you didn’t use the word “zealous”, but may I be forgiven for interpreting he goes after this with a missionary zeal as a sufficiently equivalent locution? Though zealotry and missionary zeal have, as you rightly point out, different connotations? An interesting discussion that, though, again, for a different thread.

    Rod’s a decent guy, and I think you agree. I think his disillusionment was devastating to him. A man with a young family, and privy to the sources of a journalist that never (either through him because of confidentiality or other reporters) made it into the popular press, — it’s not hard to understand that disillusionment. A convert, he was a better Catholic than I, a “cradle” Catholic, ever was, and I have learned a lot about faith from his writings. I don’t always agree with him by any means, but I have a great respect for his perspective (full disclosure — I also was attracted by the liturgy and faith of the Orthodox Church when I studied Russian and Greek in college (and that amid the debauched post-V2 Church), but found that Epicureanism was more consonant with my callow inexperience. O tender youth, wasted on the young!)

    But I think you are right — Rod now sees RC / OC unity from the Orthodox perspective. But does not Benedict (and did not JP2) also share in some sense that view? How else to explain the lack of disciplining of renegade bishops such as Mahoney? Or the non-demotion of Law? Is this not the fruit of “collegiality”, the primus inter pares of the early Church? But is not the golden goal of a ONE Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church worth toleration of the ephemeral heterodoxies of a Mahoney? The moral culpability of a Law?

    But since Fr. Z has chosen to “fisk” Rod’s post from today, let us defer this to that thread. I don’t read a lot of blogs, but it’s my impression that Fr. Z and Rod Dreher would together host a hell of a grand blognic! Let the Guinness flow.

  27. Randii says:

    Roland, no apology needed. I just wanted to clarify.

    To be open about where I am coming from I too have come to see the Orthodox model as the more approapriate one for the church.

    IMO the Western church was too influended by Greek thought/rationalism and the need to “define” everything. To the point that the mystery is taken out of the mysteries – as the Orthodox call them. This rationalism ultimately IMO led to modern Biblical criticism in the western church. Both Protestant and Catholic. IMO there is a reason why Orthodoxy didn’t go through a major reformation/split.

    At a practical level, cathechisis and the liturgy have been far more effectively kept in their original whole and uniformity through the Orthodox churches.

    There are now a growing number of Orthodox churches in my area and the liturgy is reverently and properly celebrated in all of them. You don’t have to pick an orthodox Orthodox parish as they all are. That cannot at all be said for the Catholic church in my area.

    But it is a whole different theme for discussion. BTW, I’d love a Fr. Z/R. Drher blog.

  28. Gwen says:

    I was baptized and confirmed at Easter Vigil. We had eight baptized and confirmed and seven (I think) others confirmed.

    Our RCIA class was shallow, incomplete, and often incorrect (how else to describe the polar opposite of “orthodox and solid?”). I made up the lack on my own, with the help of Opus Dei (retreat and recollections and personal mentoring), lots of reading and research, EWTN, Catholic radio, and daily Mass attendance. I’ve changed parishes and am going to attend my new parish’s mystagogy sessions.

    Ready to chat at any time!

  29. Carolyn says:

    I was baptized and confirmed at the Easter Vigil as well. Believe me, I know I have a lot to learn as I continue on this journey. But I do feel that I took my period of study (spanning a few years) before committing to this decision seriously. Do I understand everything about the faith? No. But I think I’m coming with a good foundation – and I pray that I am ready to meet all that is to come on the journey!

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