Neophytes and sponsors recount graces received at Easter Vigil

The Catholic Church welcomed 12 members of the Notre Dame community to the faith at Notre Dame’s Easter Vigil Mass on March 30. During the Easter liturgy, the elect received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and first communion from Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., Rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Over 1,200 congregants accompanied these 12 at the Vigil Mass.

Newly baptized neophyte, Zhongyu Cheng, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, shared that his experience of the Easter sacraments will remain with him for the rest of his life. Cheng recounted to the Rover, “When we asked all the saints to pray for us during the baptism and when the holy water was pouring down from my head, I knew I had been reborn and restarted; all my past became past. And when I was called my saint’s name, Francis, during the confirmation, it was one of the most touching moments—it can make me break into tears even today.” 

Cheng and his fellow neophytes have been on a seven-month journey in the Campus Ministry RCIA process, learning the central doctrines of the Church and cultivating their interior lives for the reception of the sacraments. Led by Assistant Director of Campus Ministry Brett Perkins, the neophytes would be dismissed from 10 a.m. Mass each week at the offertory to have a Bible study and to ask RCIA team leaders questions about scripture, the Mass, and prayer.

The RCIA team led participants through the Rites of Acceptance and Election, at which they saw the hundreds of other catechumens in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend who walked with them on their journey. The newly baptized underwent rigorous formation, consisting of retreats and teaching sessions. Cheng expressed his “deep appreciation to our RCIA family,” recounting, “It was my faith journey, but I was not walking alone.” 

Cate Stiller, a speech pathology student at Holy Cross College and one of the neophytes’ godparents, viewed the Vigil as a pivotal reminder of the gift she received at her baptism. She told the Rover, “After considerable preparation in the RCIA program, the Easter Vigil is the culmination of what we have been looking forward to. How blessed are we to share this day with Christ so that we may bring new members into the Catholic Church and officially welcome them home with arms outstretched?” 

She concluded, “Seeing tears streaming down their faces and their heartfelt joy made it all worthwhile; I am a proud godmother!”

Louisa Conwill, a doctoral student in computer science and godmother, shared how the neophytes’ journey to the baptisimal font is a difficult, yet tremendously rewarding process. Conwill expressed, “It was beautiful to stand next to my neophyte right before her baptism and to hear her say ‘yes’ to all of the baptismal vows, especially that she believes all that the Catholic Church teaches.” 

Conwill continued: “While some of the catechumens joined RCIA confident that they wanted to become Catholic, my neophyte was interested but not totally sure, and RCIA was more of a process of active discernment for her. It was powerful to hear her affirm that she believes all Church teachings having walked with her this past year and knowing how much she wrestled with some of them.” 

Matthew Kuan, a Siegfried resident who received the sacraments of initiation along with Cheng, was enamored with the beauty of the sacred space of the basilica decorated with magnificent Easter ornamentation. 

“From the phenomenal performance by the Liturgical Choir to the beautiful sea of candlelights casting their comforting glows across the basilica’s ornate and sacred walls, I’m afraid words cannot truly express how mesmerized I was by the scene alone! Upon hearing the numerous blessings from an army of priests and the entire Church that was present, I couldn’t feel more welcomed and blessed to begin my next journey with Christ.” Kuan said.

Both Kuan and Cheng reflected on sharing the light of their newly lit baptismal candles with the congregation. Cheng told the Rover, “Another touching and unforgettable memory was helping the others light their candles; I received many blessings and congratulations from our brothers and sisters, and I was warmly welcomed home. I know I received abundant graces that day that will help sustain me forever.”

In addition to the twelve neophytes baptized at the Easter Vigil, the RCIA and RCIA Short Course programs—designed for those already baptized non-Catholics who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church as well as baptized Catholics who wish to be confirmed—will present 43 candidates for full initiation to Bishop Kevin Rhoades on April 28. 

If you are discerning to join the Catholic Church or are curious and want to learn more about the Catholic faith at Our Lady’s University, please reach out to Brett Perkins at 

Daniel Schermerhorn is an RCIA Team Leader who is in awe of the amazing witness of the 12 neophytes and would like to invite all who are curious about the joy of living out the Catholic faith to join the RCIA community next year. If you want to learn more about joining the Church, you can contact Daniel at

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Photo Credit: RCIA Team