H/t Norm Sutherland
Here are a couple of stories published on Zenit.org (links below) that remind us what the Easter Season is all about. The first story comes from Japan.
Shinto Priest's Wife, Daughter Becoming Catholic
Mother Teresa Inspired ConversionPARIS, MARCH 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Two of the many thousands who will join the Catholic Church this Easter are a mother and daughter from Japan. Their story is unique because the family's father is a Shinto priest.
The Eglises d'Asie, the news agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris, reported the story of Ito Miyuki, 38, and her daughter, Kotone, 5, who will be baptized into the Catholic faith.
The celebration will take place in the parish of Yonezawa in the prefecture of Yamagata.
"My home is a Shinto temple; my work is that of a miko," she told UCANews, referring to a woman assistant in a Shinto temple.
With only a few days left before her baptism, Miyuki continues to play sacred music during her husband's ceremonies. After her baptism, she plans to continue to do so.
She began to work in the Shinto shrine in the prefecture of Shimane at 23.
Later, she returned to live with her parents in Yamagata, where she met Haruhiko, a Shinto priest, and they were married.
Her knowledge of the Christian faith was then very weak, though existent. She attended a Catholic high school, where she was fascinated by the story of the life and work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Three years after her wedding, during a trip to India, she visited the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta and was blessed by the founder, who gave her a rosary, which she still treasures.
However, Miyuki's conversion came later. In 2008, during a dinner, she began to cough up blood. The doctors diagnosed cancer of the pharynx, telling her it was terminal.
Without being able to explain it, the image of Mother Teresa came to Miyuki'a mind and she said to herself: "I want to be baptized before I die!"
On leaving the hospital, she began searching to see how she could receive this sacrament, but someone close to the Church told her that, being a miko, she should reconsider her decision.
However, she persisted with her desire and contacted the parish of Yonezawa, where she was received by the team in charge of the catechumenate.
Two months later, when she was growing used to her illness, her cancer disappeared.
"My life was saved by Jesus Christ; I want to spend the rest of my life in the Church," she thought at the time, realizing that she had become "spiritually thirsty."
For some time Miyuki considered the possibility of abandoning her functions in the shrine, but she was dissuaded by a priest of the parish and the team of laymen that support her.
In regard to her daughter, Kotone herself went to see the priest to ask to be baptized.
"I want to know Jesus," she said at the age of 5. "I love Jesus and I love Mary."
Miyuki's husband has no objection to the prospect of the forthcoming baptism of his wife and daughter. In fact, he says he feels profoundly fortunate.
“Considering my position, I can’t be baptized myself,” he explained. “But for my own part, I do wish I could. This area has a shrinking population, but despite this, all the residents continue to support Shinto festivals with monetary offerings. I feel I must do what I can to meet the needs of those who do so much to protect this shrine.”
After Easter and the baptisms, the Ito family plans to travel to France where, in the company of several Catholic priests, they will go on pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Here is a second story about conversion in America:
Thousands to Enter Church at EasterWASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- This Easter, thousands are planning to become Catholic, including a man who almost lost his life five times.
The U.S. bishops' conference shared the story of Jeremy Feldbusch, 30, from Blairsville, Pennsylvania, who is among the thousands preparing to enter the Church Saturday evening.
Feldbusch was in the armed services in Iraq, and on April 3, 2003, he was wounded with shrapnel from the conflict, which resulted in blindness in both eyes and traumatic brain injury.
He was expected to die shortly after, or if he lived, to sustain extensive brain damage. Doctors put him into a coma with a ventilator for six weeks in order to reduce brain swelling.
The medical professionals attempted to remove the ventilator five times, but on each attempt, Feldbusch "died" and had to be resuscitated. On the sixth try, he finally regained consciousness.
The patient, who had been baptized a Methodist, asked his father, "Why did God take my eyesight?"
His father replied with a different question, "Why did God let you live?"
The bishops' conference reported that through the process of rehabilitation, Feldbusch "began to think that things happen for a reason and resolved to spend his life helping other wounded service members."
He decided to enter the Catholic Church, and will be received on Saturday, the 7th anniversary of his life-changing injury in Iraq.
The conference press release noted that thousands more will join Feldbusch, with especially high numbers of new Catholics expected in the South and Southwest regions of the United States.
The Diocese of Dallas, Texas, is preparing to receive 3,000 new Catholics. Of these, 700 are catechumens (never before baptized) and 2,300 are candidates (already validly baptized into the Christian faith, but seeking full communion with the Church).
Also in Texas, the Archdiocese of San Antonio is reporting that 1,112 people will enter the Church. A good number of these are young people, who have already reached the age of reason, including 214 child catechumens and 124 candidates.
The Diocese of Forth Worth in that same state will welcome around the same number of new Catholics.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta is preparing for 1,800 new Church members, which is the largest group ever recorded for that region, the press release reported.
On the West Coast, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is the largest diocese nationwide, will receive 2,400 new members.
In Seattle, 682 people will be baptized into the Church, and 479 welcomed into full communion.
The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, will welcome 842 new Catholics.
Other dioceses who are expecting over a thousand new members are: Detroit, Michigan (1,225); Cincinnati, Ohio (1,049); Denver, Colorado (1,102); Arlington, Virginia (1,100); Washington, D.C. (1,150).
In the Archdiocese of Washington, 18 of those preparing to enter the Church are students from St. Augustine School, the oldest African American school in the nation's capital.
The conference communiqué noted that the Catholic Church, which is the largest denomination in the United States, with over 68 million members, has shown a 1.5% increase in membership numbers this past year.