This week I was gifted to be one of the many presenters at the Diocese of Buffalo’s Millennial Milestones Conference. The Diocese’s foundation is offering grants on young adult ministry initiatives and so the diocesan staff put together a two day conference providing workshops on who young adults are today (My presentation), leadership, parish initiatives and sacramentality.
Dr Jerry Galipeau, D.Min. who you can meet over at the Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray Blog provided me with the most emotional experience of baptism in some time.
He began speaking about visiting the church where he was baptized and it struck him that “my little head was in that font and from that moment on, nothing was ever the same.” He noted that his parents thought so much of him that they baptized him into the Catholic community of faith and everything from then on, changed. Because he was Catholic he had studied for the priesthood and instead of choosing ordination he chose the path of parish ministry as a lay person. A gifted musician and liturgist, he has been gift for the church for over 50 years now. It all sprang from that initial moment of water running over a little baby’s head.
Dr Galipeau had us all go to the chapel and remember those who were present at our own baptism. Parents, grandparents perhaps, Godparents. A priest. Perhaps some of us, unlike myself, were baptized as adults? What a profoundly different experience that may have been. I know my favorite moment every year is the Easter Vigil, when many adults are newly baptized. It’s an amazing experience to watch and to walk with these people as they study in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). I remember my good friend Sr. Jeanne Hamilton led RCIA classes one year at Fordham and when the Vigil was over she reported, “I feel like I just gave birth…12 times!”
I approached the font thinking of my parents and my Godparents. My parents are such strong reminders of what it means to stay faithful to God as they have lived married life for nearly 60 years together. My Godmother I can barely remember but I do remember her being very dedicated to me and to my education. She was always encouraging me to read and to learn and to most importantly, stay out of trouble. My Godfather was another story. A World War II veteran, my mother’s brother, Patrick, who every one called Bubby, returned from war changed. The big worry of my baptism day was whether or not he’d show up sober. My mother, always the encouraging one, said that she wasn’t worried and that he was going to be the godfather and that’s that. She believed in him and I think that was all that mattered to him. With his sister’s trust, he came and held me over the font and everything worked out just fine. He became someone I looked forward to visiting and who cared for my mother and my family more than most. I even read the second reading at his funeral which I think was one of the first times I was really representing my entire family at a formal event.
Nothing was ever the same.
As I took water from the font, I did so with much gratitude for that changing day. That day when I became part of the church and where indeed, nothing would ever be the same again. I scooped up a large quantity of that water, more than ever mindful, that my life has been blessed with great people, great churches, great pastors and great colleagues in ministry.
And because of my little head being dipped in the font of new life, I have been baptized into new life and need to recall that changing moment again and again.