Fr. Gary Zerr baptizes Leul Gurske, 2, held by mom Bethany at St. Edward Parish in Keizer.
St. Edward Parish photo by Susan May
KEIZER Bethany Gurske descended with her slumbering 2-year-old son into the baptismal pool at St. Edward Church here Saturday night. Father Gary Zerr baptized the two amid running water.
The splash on the head woke Leul, who protested. But he was soon in the dry, comforting arms of his father, Jeff. The Gurskes just adopted Leul from Ethiopia.
The mother and child were among about 850 people who joined the Catholic Church in Oregon during nighttime Easter vigils, complete with darkness, fires and candles.
Michael OGrady also was brought into the church as a candidate, someone who had already been baptized in another denomination. During the vigil, Father Zerr blessed OGrady, who is visually impaired, along with his seeing-eye dog, Langley. The canine has been a regular part of classes and meetings for those entering the church.
It is a true joy watching the faith of these people unfold and seeing the jubilation they display upon entering the church, says Bumpy Poole, who leads the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Edward.
On a cool, wet evening, Brian and Gina Baragona are sitting on the couch with their 6-year-old daughter, Bella. The family is watching their dog frolic with a stick and getting some good laughs.
The Baragonas are close in many ways. Now they can add Catholic faith to the list.
Its like coming home, says Gina, who was baptized Saturday night along with her husband at St. John the Baptist Parish in Milwaukie. Young Bella was actually the first official Catholic of the Baragona family, having been baptized a year ago.
Brian and Gina, both 36, grew up in California. Brians father, from a large Italian Catholic household, had become disillusioned with the faith, interpreting it as an obstacle to free will.
Brian was 6 when his father died, and his mother refrained from religious requirements, wanting the children to choose for themselves. But he remembered his roots, including his beloved grandmother, a religious education teacher.
Brian, who installs fire sprinklers for a living, has now made his decision. Televangelists of the 1980s turned him off from going to church, but he always remained The Baragonas also were impressed with Catholic neighbors. Once they started attending Mass, that sealed their commitment.
At first, when we went back to church, I wanted to just go in and attend Mass and leave, says Brian. Then we found everyone there at St Johns is so nice and open. Father Maxy (DCosta) and before that Father Todd (Molinari) made the experience so pleasant. I was surprised that then I really wanted to be involved.
The history and tradition of the church inspire the Baragonas. Gina, a project assistant for an architecture and engineering firm, finds it moving that she could travel anywhere in the world and find Catholics, her faith family, worshiping in the way she does and believing what she does.
The values of Love God, love others it doesnt get any better than that, Gina says.
Gina had gone to Catholic schools. Her father was a church-goer but when she lived with her mother, she had to go to Mass on her own. Her sacramental records are unclear, so Gina was baptized conditionally on Saturday, a rite to make sure the bases are covered.
The couple hungers for even more education and formation. They may sign on to help future prospective Catholics go through the process.
Both sides of the family are delighted at the choice, which is giving them a new look at the church and faith.
In Klamath Falls Saturday, Nick Huffman embraced a faith whose structure and history he has come to admire.
I really get something out of the Mass, Huffman says. It tells you the real story of Jesus and God.
The 28-year-old apprentice surveyor starting attending Mass at Sacred Heart Parish with his wife, Haley, a lifelong Catholic. For six years, he attended worship and pondered.
Hed been raised by a Presbyterian mother and was never baptized. He attended Sunday school until he was 9 or so. Then it stopped.
That TV religion, where people throw their arms up and are saved? Thats not for me, Huffman says, explaining why he was timid about church.
But at Mass, he could see faith, reason, tradition and excitement all together. He joined a class for those who want to join the church.
Its been a great experience, he says. Im glad I have finally taken the step forward to join the Catholic Church and grow closer to God. That is what its all about.
At St. Mary Cathedral in Portland on Easter morning, Father George Wolf welcomed worshipers from various parts of the region, including those, he joked, whove been out of town since Christmas.