Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Still Welcoming New Catholics Amid Coronavirus Challenges


By Tony DeGol

Becoming a fully-initiated Catholic is music to Mike Meketa’s ears – literally and figuratively. 

A talented organist and pianist, Meketa is already part of the music ministry at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Johnstown under the tutelage of music director Dan Becker.  

The real high note for Meketa, however, will come at this year’s Easter Vigil when he and two other candidates at the parish will receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.  

Meketa was baptized Catholic, but over the years he engaged with other faith traditions, and he was a musician at Methodist and Lutheran churches.  

The journey home to the Catholic Church for this young adult is much anticipated. 

“Being around the Catholic faith, it’s the most pure form of Liturgy to me, and I’m really excited to receive the sacraments with my brothers and sisters,” he said. 

Meketa is one of 28 individuals seeking full communion with the Catholic Church through the Christian Initiation process this Lent.  

The numbers are a little lower this year because of the pandemic, said diocesan RCIA coordinator Jeanne Thompson, but still an encouraging sign of the Church alive and growing. 

“Over the past 11 months, we have heard a lot of people say, ’In this extraordinary year,’” Thompson said. “What made my heart fill with joy was knowing that we have 28 extraordinary men and women who heard God calling through grace to go down a new road on their journey of life. That road will take them into full membership in the Catholic Church. This gives me deep hope for our diocese and the entire Church. We will be rejoicing in an extra, extraordinary way this Easter.”

Typically on the First Sunday of Lent, catechumens (the unbaptized), candidates (those seeking Confirmation and Eucharist), and their sponsors gather for the Rite of Election at either of the two diocesan Cathedrals. During the ritual, the catechumens sign their name in the Book of the Elect, and Bishop Mark formally greets and welcomes all of the individuals. 

This year, to avoid large gatherings, Bishop Mark directed the ritual to be carried out at parishes, rather than regionally at the Cathedrals.  

As a way of recognizing the milestone on a diocesan level, the Bishop acknowledged the candidates and catechumens in his homily during the Proclaim! TV Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. During the Liturgy, Thompson read the names of those to be initiated. 

The catechumens and candidates, Bishop Mark noted, are already heeding the Lenten message, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  

“They have begun to turn to our Heavenly Father, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, they have started to follow the direction of the Lord Jesus, and to follow him closely through his Church,” the Bishop said. 

Meketa plans to continue that path through his music ministry and many other ways.  

“When I become a fully initiated Catholic I will be able to participate a little more fully in the Liturgy knowing that I will be doing it intentionally,” he remarked. “There’s an intentionality about choosing to go to Confession and receiving Communion. I think that’s really going to push me in my faith.” 

(Adults to be baptized and receive Confirmation and First Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil)

Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel, Loretto
Hunter James Dixon

Our Lady of Victory Parish, State College
Ashley Christian
Jean-Pierre Mulley

Saint Francis Xavier Parish, Cresson
Stephen Edward Snyder

Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Bellefonte
Laura Lundberg

Saint Joseph Parish, Bellwood
Tiffany Keith

Aria Keith
Linda Parson
Phyllis Schultz

(Adults already baptized who will receive Confirmation and First Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil or during the Easter season)

All Saints Parish, Boswell
Jamie Hillegas

Good Shepherd Parish, Port Matilda
Austin Watrous

Holy Spirit Parish, Lock Haven
Adam Gundy
Amy Bryan

Our Lady of Victory Parish, State College
Georgette Covasa

Jerry Kelley
Rachel O’Brien
Frances Pollack

Our Mother of Sorrows Parish, Johnstown
Michael Meketa
Cheryl Segear
Kelly Zibura

Prince of Peace Parish, Northern Cambria
Michael P. Mays

Saint Anthony of Padua Parish, Windber
Sarah Mulcahy

Saint Benedict Parish, Johnstown
Amy Kelly

Saint Francis University, Loretto
Hayden Herc
Mackenzie Walker

Saint Monica Parish, Chest Springs
Erica Auberzinski

Saint Rose of Lima Parish, Altoona
Jared Williams

(Fully initiated in the Orthodox Church at Baptism; will make a Profession of Faith and be received into full communion of the Roman Catholic Church)

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Altoona
Cody Stephen Wilt

Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Altoona
Christopher Lee Daras