SALT LAKE CITY — During the March 31 Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Bishop Oscar A. Solis baptized six people, including Stephanie Diaz, whose journey into the Catholic Church started when she was very young.
“I kind of heard the call throughout my life. … When I was young I used to go to church, but I never knew much about religion,” said Diaz, who met her husband, a cradle Catholic, 10 years ago.
“He is from Mexico and he has deep Catholic roots, so I started thinking that it was about time to get back on track [religion-wise],” Diaz said.
More than a year ago she went to the Cathedral of the Madeleine, which she described as a very beautiful and peaceful church.
“This time was different though; I felt that this was the time,” so she reached out and started the process for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adult (RCIA) program, she said.
The cathedral’s RCIA program is a year-round process; adult participants must complete 12 months (an entire liturgical year) of study prior being received into the Church.
For Diaz, the year was filled with up and downs, with joys and sorrows. Her husband, who came to the United States undocumented, received a letter asking him to present himself in Mexico in order to be granted an immigrant visa/green card. By law, an immigrant who enters the U.S. by unlawful means can only apply for a green card through “consular processing,” which requires the immigrant to attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in his or her home country. This process carries a risk – the immigrant may not be allowed back into the U.S. for up to 10 years.
After receiving the letter, Diaz and her husband gathered all their belongings to be able to make the trip to Mexico in November.
“When we got the letter that he had an interview we didn’t question or anything, we just went,” said Diaz, who was pregnant at the time. “We took everything that we had. We spent it going there to get the visa. We didn’t have anything for the baby at all, but my husband told me, ‘Don’t worry. When we get back we will work hard and get everything that we need.’ …. We were also very happy because he haven’t seen his family for 11 years, so we were very happy and hopeful.”
That hope turned to sadness after the visa wasn’t granted and she had to come back to the U.S. by herself, without her husband and with no money. She was sad, but Tracey Fredman, the RCIA director at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, told her to not give up, that things will get better, she said.
“I started working about 75 hours a week until about four days before my baby was born,” she said. “I didn’t have anything for my baby and I was just so sad, … but time went on and I just kept working. That’s all I could do. … I had so much support from everyone at both of my [full-time] jobs, people at church,” said Diaz, whose child was born Feb. 13.
That experience, instead of making her give up, strengthened her faith.
“I felt like I got the strength from Our Lord,” said Diaz who, because of the birth of her baby, was unable to attend the Feb. 24 Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Madeleine with other members of her RCIA class. “Life is filled with tests; it’s through hard times when either you get deeper into the faith or you turn away,” she said. “Sometimes we have to suffer and go through this, but that’s what brings us closer to God.”
Now she is filled with gratitude toward all the people who have helped her.
“Everyone that I have in my life helped me so much,” she said. “I didn’t have to buy [the baby] anything. Everyone bought everything. … I am so grateful for that, and that’s an example of how, when you need something, the Lord will be there to help you. God is there and He will take care of you.”
That message was echoed in Bishop Solis’ homily at the Easter Vigil. The bishop said that night the mood was one of joy and celebration because “Christ our Lord is risen from the dead. He is risen in order to dispel the darkness of sin and to give us newness of life.”