At Easter vigil, 197 catechumens enter full communion with Catholic Church

Marco Carvalho

The Easter Vigil transforms the holy night of Black Saturday into a night of light and the liturgical moment – the most unique of the entire Church year – was of utmost importance for 197 catechumens who entered full communion with the Catholic Church, thus completing a long period of intense preparation.

The 197 new Catholics, Father João Lau told O Clarim, have been thoroughly prepared over the last year, so that they could receive the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – during the Easter Vigil.

“Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has dedicated the Easter Vigil to Christian initiation. People who submitted to a period of purification and enlightenment, expressed their desire to join the Church through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. This year, in Saint Lazarus parish, 20 catechumens entered full communion with the Catholic Church. Five children were also baptized,” the Saint Lazarus’ parish priest explains.

“A few years are better than others concerning the number of people being baptized. This year, all over Macau, 197 adults joined the faith community through Baptism,” Father Lau recalls.

In the never-ending effort to bring prospective candidates closer to God, Father Lau is already preparing a new group of catechumens, in a pioneering initiative. The elected embarked on a year-long process of conversion, as they prepare to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil next year.

“This year, I decided to take on my hands a pioneering endeavor. I know of a few families where the matriarch, the children and the grandchildren – almost the entire clan – are Catholics. The only exception is the family patriarch. Therefore, I decided to create a catechesis course exclusively aimed at parents. It’s something that I truly believe is important. I only invited men, because there are several that I know that fit that description. I will prepare them so that they can be baptized at the Easter Vigil next year,” the Saint Lazarus parish priest said.

“I noticed that there are people who join their wives at church every weekend. Some of them have been doing that all their life, ever since they started dating. Nevertheless, these men have never been baptized. Some of these people got married, had children and are now grandparents. I am organizing catechism classes for this specific kind of people. I kickstarted this initiative during Lent and, at first, I thought I would attract a handful of people. In the end, 12 persons showed up,” Father Lau reveals.

The imposition of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation during the Easter Vigil was not only the culmination of the Holy Week, but also of the 40-day-long observance of Lent. In Saint Lazarus parish, the journey towards Easter began in early March, with the Church hosting its annual Lent retreat and organizing the Way of the Cross every Friday. “During Lent, as usual, we organized an annual retreat for our parishioners. It took place in the first week of March, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Around 80 parishioners gathered for one hour a day. First and foremost, it was a period prone to reflection,” Father Lau said.

“During the entire period of Lent, every Friday we also organized the Way of the Cross, at 3 pm in our Church. The ceremony was broadcasted live by Radio Voice of Mary. Both, the retreat and the Way of the Cross, are events that are organized every year,” the parish priest added.

‘Chao Tong’ literally means “from one church to another”.

One of the most significant Lenten traditions in Macau takes place on Maundy Thursday.

Known in the Chinese Catholic community as chao tong, the initiative takes the form of a local pilgrimage and that leads devotees from church to church, so that they can adore the Blessed Sacrament where He is exposed. “In Macau, there is a very particular tradition. I don’t know how can we refer to this procedure in English, but in Chinese we say chao tong. ‘Chao tong’ translated literally means, “from one Church to another”. And what is this tradition all about? On Holy Thursday, starting from the end of the day until midnight, local Catholics make an effort to visit all the local Churches where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. It is very usual for people to go from one Church to the other, where they proceed to the Adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist. Having done that, they will go on and visit another Church,” Father Lau explains.

“Basically, they take a religious tour of the city. I don’t know exactly when this tradition started, but in the old days there were even chapels that would open their doors, so that they could be visited. The chapel of Saint Rose of Lima, the chapel of the Carmelites and the chapel of the Salesians, among others, would join the initiative,” the parish priest of Saint Lazarus recalls.

Easter Vigil celebrated in Portuguese

In the Cathedral Parish, Easter Vigil was once again celebrated in the Portuguese language, after a few years in which all the different Catholic communities were brought together to commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord.

On Saturday, Bishop Stephen Lee Bun-Sang presided over the ceremony of the Adoration of the Holy Cross at the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady.

“Concerning the Easter Triduum, on Thursday night, there was a mass celebrated – both in Portuguese and in Chinese – that brought the two communities together. On Good Friday, Bishop Lee, as I said, presided over the ceremony of the Adoration of the Holy Cross, addressing the local Portuguese-speaking Catholic community in their mother tongue,” Father Daniel Ribeiro told O Clarim. “On Saturday, after many years, the Easter Vigil was celebrated in Portuguese at Saint Dominic’s Church. The Chinese-speaking community remained in the Cathedral. On Sunday, four children were baptized, following an extended period of preparation,” the Brazilian priests added.

To prepare the faithful for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Our Savior, the Portuguese-language pastoral team at the Cathedral of the Nativity organized the Way of the Cross during the entire period of Lent: “Every Friday, during Lent, the Way of the Cross took place at 5 pm. Friday after Friday, around three dozen people joined Via Crucis. Furthermore, on Friday and Holy Saturday, from half past nine to twelve thirty, a spiritual retreat was held, aimed primarily at the Portuguese community. This retreat was centered on the suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus and tried to help the participants to better prepare for the Easter Triduum celebrations,” Father Ribeiro said.