May 2006 - Volume 10, Issue 10

And Now, A Word To Our Sponsors

By The Most Reverend William E. Lori, S.T.D., Bishop Of Bridgeport

Photo of Saint Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport ConnecticutOn Holy Saturday, Saint Augustine Cathedral was filled to capacity for the Easter Vigil. It could also be said that the Cathedral church of our diocese was filled to capacity with Easter joy as 21 people became full members of the Church through the Easter Sacraments. I want to tell you about that great night but also I want to remember with you the responsibilities that flow from it.

Truly it was a night of luminous beauty. Lighted from the newly-blessed fire, the Paschal Candle led the way into the darkened Cathedral. "Light of Christ!" the deacon intoned three times. And the light slowly enveloped the darkness as we made our way to the sanctuary.

As the light continued to spread, the Exsultet, the Church's Easter praises, rang out: "This is the night, the night of our salvation!" Filled with joy, we then listened to God's Word proclaimed in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, which told how He created the world and intervened in human history to redeem us. As we listened, our minds and hearts were enlightened with the glory of Christ and thus prepared to welcome afresh the Good News of Jesus' Resurrection, the triumph of divine love over sin and death.

When the Gloria was sung, the lights in the Cathedral brightened. After the Epistle was proclaimed, we found ourselves ready once again to sing the Easter Alleluia and to listen to the awe-inspiring Gospel of the Resurrection.

The refrain from the Exsultet, "This is the night!" continued to echo in my heart as all these liturgical mysteries unfolded with grace, dignity, and joy!

Then, accompanied by the Litany of the Saints, we began a slow procession to the Baptismal font where the baptismal water was blessed and six adults were baptized. In the very power of Christ's Death and Resurrection, they were cleansed of sin and received into the very depth of their being the new life Christ won for us. They emerged as children of God, the Father's adopted sons and daughters, and members of Christ's Body, the Church.

As we looked upon them, we saw the living presence of Christ who passed from death to life. And in the light of His glory, all the baptized professed again their baptismal promises to renounce sin and evil and to embrace in thought, word, and deed the living faith of the Church. With the same water used for Baptism, all in the Cathedral were sprinkled to remind us of our own Baptism.

Next, two adults, already baptized, professed their full and free acceptance of all the Church believes and teaches, and were thus received into the Roman Catholic Church. Afterwards, the newly-baptized and received, together with 13 others completing their initiation into the Church, were confirmed. All of them received the Crucified and Risen Lord in Holy Communion. Their intimate union with the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ also signaled their communion with the Church throughout the world, localized in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The look of joy on the faces of the newly- initiated will remain in my heart and mind for years to come!

Photo of a yellow lilyBut now comes the challenging part. After the echoes of the Easter Vigil begin to fade, the truth, beauty, and power of what happened in us must not fade. Those who were newly baptized and received into the Church, together with those who completed their initiation, still need our assistance. For that matter, all the young people throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport who were recently confirmed need our assistance, especially from those of you who were chosen to serve as sponsors.

So, at last, a word to our sponsors!

First, I want to thank you for accepting the important responsibility of being a sponsor. To be sponsor is not merely a personal honor. The word "sponsor" comes from the Latin verb spondere, which means "to make a solemn pledge." What you have pledged to do is to encourage the person you sponsored - whether newly-baptized or confirmed - to open his or her heart to Christ Jesus, to take part in the Mass and the sacraments regularly, and to live the faith each day. This is indeed a serious responsibility that does not disappear with the passage of time.

Second, I would like to suggest a practical way in which you might fulfill your responsibilities as a sponsor. This suggestion does not originate with me but rather it comes from a very wise, zealous, and energetic pastor in our diocese. At the end of Confirmation, he reminds the sponsors that they were chosen by the newly-confirmed because they saw them as models for their lives. He also reminds them that they have assumed a continuing obligation to help the newly-initiated to practice their faith actively. He suggests, for example, that they call the newly-confirmed just to make sure they went to Mass on Sunday. He cites the example of his own mother who calls her adult children (including her son, the priest!) to make sure they get to Mass each Sunday.

I mention this because often those received into the Church at the Easter Vigil experience a night of great joy, but then sometimes they are almost forgotten. Studies show that they can easily drift away from the Church and wind up in the all-too-numerous ranks of the un-churched! So the role of the sponsor turns out to be crucial. It is also up to each parish community and diocese to reach out to new members with sustained love and encouragement. After all, in the early Church, the period after Baptism was a time of intense and prayerful instruction in the mysteries of the faith, known as "mystagogia."

This year, a Mystagogia Retreat Day and a Mass (which I shall celebrate) have been planned on Sunday, May 7, from 2-6 p.m. at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford. I cordially invite those baptized, received into the Church, and fully initiated into the Church at Easter Vigils throughout the diocese to take part in this event. For more information and to RSVP, please call the Office for Christian Formation: 416-1440.

May the joy of Easter continue to grow stronger in our hearts!