Washington D.C., April 1 (CNA).-Tens of thousands of new Catholics are expected to join the Catholic Church in the U.S. in 2009, with many doing so at the Easter Vigil liturgies on April 11. Converts to Catholicism are known as catechumens if they have never been baptized and as candidates if they have received baptism in another Christian community and now seek full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta, where Catholics have traditionally been a minority, estimates that 513 catechumens and 2,195 candidates will enter the Catholic Church in 2009, about 1,800 doing so at Easter. The figures do not include infant baptisms.
Father Theodore Book, director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Atlanta Archdiocese, said the archdiocese has been "blessed with an authentic dynamism" during recent years. He cited the archdiocese's annual Eucharistic Congress, saying it draws nearly 30,000 participants.
"One of the many blessings that we have received from the Lord is the large number of individuals entering the Church," he said.
The Archdiocese of Seattle will reportedly welcome 736 catechumens and 506 candidates, while the Diocese of San Diego will baptize 305 and receive into communion 920 other baptized Christians.
The mostly rural Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama reportedly will have 445 new converts. The diocese's Cathedral of St. Paul could not hold them and their families for the Rite of Election, which had to be held in three separate ceremonies.
At St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, California resident Heidi Sierras will represent North America at the Easter Vigil, where she will be baptized by Pope Benedict XVI.
The 2008 Official Catholic Directory listed 49,415 adult baptisms and 87,363 people received into full communion in 2007.