By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published March 4, 2021 | En Español
ROSWELL—Sarinna Yoder, 55, a catechumen from St. Peter Chanel Church, is counting down the weeks until she is in full communion with the Catholic Church.
Originally from Hong Kong, Yoder came to the United States in 1986 to attend Georgia State University. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer information systems.
Even though her parents were not religious, she attended Christian schools when she was younger and was raised with “high ethical standards and beliefs in line with the Catholic school teaching,” she said.
Over the years, she visited local Catholic churches with friends and her sister-in-law when she came to town. Her best friend attends St. Brigid Church in Johns Creek.
But it was meeting her fiancé, Kevin, three and a half years ago and attending St. Peter Chanel together over the years that brought a change.
“We talk about faith…we pray together,” said Yoder. “I learned a lot from him…and that actually gave me the inspiration to become a Catholic.”
Yoder started RCIA classes in September 2019. She is thankful for the support of her church, her sponsor Mary Ellen McCarthy and Margaret O’Grady, the RCIA coordinator for the Roswell parish.
“This journey … it has really transformed me tremendously and my faith has grown stronger,” said Yoder.
She said she prays more, and thanks God, which didn’t happen before.
“I think that is a very good sign to me that I belong to the Catholic Church,” said Yoder.
“She is so filled with joy,” said O’Grady, who has been the RCIA Coordinator at St. Peter Chanel for almost nine years. “We’ve just seen growth in her that has just been so beautiful.”
Yoder is one of 1,199 people expected to join the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. She attended the Rite of Election at St. Peter Chanel, one of four parishes that hosted the rite on Feb. 20. The other parishes were St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville, St. Catherine of Siena Church in Kennesaw and St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only catechumens, now called the elect, their sponsors and RCIA directors were able to attend one of the four rites. Pastors were granted permission by the archbishop to perform the rite in their parishes for those that could not attend at one of the four locations.
The Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion is optional and was not included with the Rite of Election this year for various reasons. Pastors were invited to celebrate the rite in their parishes for candidates if desired.
The 424 catechumens and 775 candidates will enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. Catechumens will receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Candidates have already been baptized but will receive the other sacraments of initiation.
At his first Rite of Election as shepherd of the Atlanta Archdiocese, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., congratulated the catechumens present at St. Peter Chanel for answering God’s call.
He expressed hope that the celebration of the rite provides “the opportunity to reflect on all the ways in which your choice has been supported, nourished and guided by God who has been at work in your lives through the things that have happened to you, the people you have met, the joys you have experienced and the sadness and difficulties you have encountered.”
“In all these ways God has been leading you to the point where you have been able to say ‘yes’ to God and choose the path of life which he has been holding out to you,” he said.
The archbishop told those gathered that while they have chosen God, he first chose them.
“It is an exciting thing to realize just how deeply God has been and is involved in our lives,” he said.
Archbishop Hartmayer told the attendees that members of the Catholic Church belong to Christ and each other.
“And this means that through you, in communion with all your brothers and sisters in the faith, Christ will reach out to others offering them the gift of life and hope, just as he has reached out to you and offered you that very same hope, the hope that has brought you here today,” he said.
After more than a year in RCIA sessions, Irmeya Cedric Ouedraogo, 34, looks forward to becoming Catholic at Easter.
A native of Burkina Faso in West Africa, Ouedraogo’s journey to the Catholic faith began when he was a child, born to a Catholic mother and a Muslim father. He attended Catholic parishes when he was little, but was never baptized. His father died 24 years ago.
Ouedraogo came to the United States on a diversity lottery visa. Each year, 50,000 immigrants are randomly selected by the U.S. Department of State to obtain permanent residency, also known as a green card. In 2016, more than 11 million people applied for the lottery visa, with only 199 people being selected from Burkina Faso. Ouedraogo was one of the few chosen, and thanks God for that.
Being married in the Catholic Church is important to Ouedraogo and his Catholic girlfriend of nearly two years, Christine. Ouedraogo was prepared to receive his sacraments last year, but the coronavirus pandemic upended his plans. But in just a little over a month, he will become Catholic at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta.
He said he likes the way the Catholic Church is…the way it thinks and how it makes one think. His mother, Anne Marie, shares in his excitement. Ouedraogo sent a picture of himself at the Rite of Election to her, and she was happy. His mother still lives in Burkina Faso.
Rico Regnier first met Ouedraogo in October of last year. A member of St. Thomas Aquinas for 15 years, Regnier has been involved in many ministries, including LifeTeen, Knights of Columbus and the Pastoral Council. He also serves on the secretariat team of Atlanta Catholic Cursillo.
Regnier said he listened to Ouedraogo’s story, discovered much in common and is serving as his sponsor.
“For me, it was an opportunity to walk with this individual to Christ,” he said. “When we find ourselves in the opportunity where we can help someone see the face of Christ, those are things that help us grow in our own relationships.”
“Rico has been fantastic,” said Ouedraogo. “I have received a lot of help from him.”
“I just love to watch God working in everybody who’s involved in this ministry,” said O’Grady. “When we’re willing to give our meager gifts, he takes them and does miraculous things with them.”
O’Grady wishes great joy for all those joining the church this Easter.
“God called them on this journey and he offers that peace and joy that they seek,” she said.