Neophytes and sponsors share their personal experiences with the Rites of Christian Initiation at Notre Dame

Originally Published April 19th, 2023

Sixteen members of the Notre Dame community were welcomed into the Catholic Church at Notre Dame’s Easter Vigil Mass. During the three-hour celebration, which began at 9 p.m. on Holy Saturday, the catechumens received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first communion from Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., Rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Roughly 1,000 people attended the Vigil, which was held inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Newly-baptized Catholics are traditionally called “neophytes,” a Greek term meaning “newly-planted.”  Neophyte Shri Thakur told the Rover: “I really enjoyed the Easter Vigil Mass at the Basilica and witnessing the Notre Dame community come together in such a beautiful way to celebrate the apex of the liturgical year. This was my first Easter Vigil Mass, but I’m sure that it won’t be the last!” 

Thakur was baptized, confirmed, and received his first communion at the Vigil. He continued, “the experience of receiving the sacraments was surreal and frankly one of the only times in my life I have genuinely felt nervous in front of an audience. I felt renewed, finally in communion with God, and so grateful to be amongst a community of my peers that were supporting me.”

The sixteen confirmandi participated in Campus Ministry’s RCIA process since the beginning of the academic year. Thakur said, “the RCIA process was very thorough and time-intensive, with three-hour sessions after Mass every Sunday and additional events during the week. All of the RCIA staff, including the Campus Ministry Director Brett Perkins and passionate students like Chris de la Viesca, were extremely knowledgeable and formative in my faith journey.” 

Sponsor Chris De La Viesca told the Rover: “It was so powerful and invigorating to see that many souls saved in baptism and receive the Body of Christ for the first time. As a sponsor and godparent, it was all the more meaningful and fulfilling because I knew them personally and we had been preparing for this moment together for over a year with much time and effort spent in learning, teaching, arguing, growing, praying, and fasting.” 

Thakur offered examples of what he learned during the process: “The topics covered in RCIA ranged from the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, such as those on marriage and sexuality, to how to properly pray and the importance of the sacraments. While lectures and lessons on the Catholic faith were an important part of the process, community prayer, small group discussion, and fellowship were equally as important in developing the sense of community central to the Church.” 

Thakur also shared the reason he decided to become Catholic. “I was drawn to the Catholic faith because over time I came to realize that all of its moral teachings were correct and the consequences of society rejecting them had come to fruition just as predicted.” 

RCIA team member Bridget Arbuckle told the Rover, “I was grateful to witness the neophytes’ transformation in the way they viewed the world and themselves as they adopted their identity in Christ. It was an efficacious experience for my own spiritual life too. Relearning and teaching the RCIA group how to pray, for example, bolstered my faith incredibly. Since they’ve been baptized, I’ve been blessed to attend the same daily Masses as some of the neophytes. It has been so beautiful to see them already embrace their role as members of the Church!” 

Sophomore and sponsor Ayden Ellis added, “I think that Notre Dame’s RCIA program is extremely thorough and probably one of the best in the country, and these sixteen neophytes are extremely blessed to be able to participate in the sacraments of initiation here. RCIA director Brett Perkins does such a great job of running RCIA in a way that is impactful for both the neophytes and sponsors.”

The Irish Rover joins Ellis in appreciation for the service of Campus Ministry and student sponsors and congratulates the sixteen new members of both the Catholic community at Notre Dame and the universal Church.

Margaret Mathis is a sophomore studying classical languages who plans to become an attorney. She is most often found sipping chocolate milk in South Dining Hall, playing tunes in the Ceílí Band, and hand-sewing the Notre Dame leprechaun onto everything she owns (which qualifies as “fair use” according to U.S.C. Title XVII Ch.1 § 107 [1]). Reach out to her at

Photo Credit: Barbara Johnson, Notre Dame Magazine

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