Neophytes follow the light of Christ into the Church

Photo provided: The Krancek family of Myrtle Beach stands together after the Easter Vigil Mass earlier this year. From left to right, they are Martin and Anna Krencek, and their children Rachel and Charles.

CHARLESTON—When Anna Krancek walked into the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with her family on June 9, she was celebrating the happy conclusion of a long and winding spiritual journey.

The Kranceks, of Myrtle Beach, were one of the many families in the state attending the annual Mass of the Neophytes, which is held each year to honor and bless those who came into the Church at the Easter Vigil. This year, 450 people statewide  entered the Church as candidates and catechumens at the Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday, according to Michael Martocchio, director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation.

Catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation, while candidates receive the Eucharist and are confirmed.

Both Krancek and her two children were catechumens, which means they all received the three important sacraments together.

Religion was not a part of Krancek’s childhood.

Raised in the Ukraine during the Communist era, she never attended church or heard adults talking about God. She knew one of her grandfathers had been Catholic, and dreamed about getting married someday in a church, but that was as far as her religious interest went — until after her family moved to the United States when she was 14.

Krancek took theology classes while studying to be a pharmacist at St. John’s University in New York City. This sparked an interest in religion, which led her to explore several different faiths and denominations.

MISCELLANY/DOUG DEAS: Caroline and Ashton Thomas prepare to bring up the gifts during the Neophyte Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston June 9. The twins came into the Church during the Easter Vigil this year.

She did not begin her path to becoming Catholic until she met and married her second husband, Martin Krancek. He was raised Catholic but hadn’t attended Mass regularly for several years.

One day in February 2017, Krancek woke up with the conviction that she and her husband should start going to Mass.

“I don’t know where that idea came from — I just felt that I was called that morning,” she said. “I think we were guided from above.”

Her husband agreed, and that weekend they went to St. Michael Church in Murrells Inlet.

The couple immediately felt comfortable at St. Michael and continued attending Mass there until September 2018, when she began the RCIA program with her husband as her sponsor.

Her decision also sparked a spiritual change in the lives of her two children, Charles, 14, and Rachel, 12. Both of them were raised Jewish because Krancek’s first husband was Jewish, but they asked to learn about the Catholic faith when she started her classes.

“We ended up attending classes as a family and came into the Church together as a family,” Krancek said. The Kranceks also experienced another important milestone this year. Martin and Anna were officially married in the Church on May 30 at a Mass held at St. Michael. Prior to that, the two had been married in a civil ceremony.

Another pair of neophytes are Ashton and Caroline Thomas, The twin sisters, who came into the church together on Holy Saturday, also attended the Mass of the Neophytes. Both 25, they are members of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Ashton, who will begin teaching first grade in the fall, said she and her sister Caroline took RCIA classes at the same time and then entered the Church as catechumens at the vigil.

The two sisters grew up attending Baptist and Methodist services with their parents and grandparents, said Ashton, who had never experienced a Catholic Mass until she met her boyfriend, who also attends the Cathedral.

“When I started going to Mass with him, something just clicked for me,” she said. “I started looking into the Church and its history, and it really affirmed for me that I was doing the right thing. There were no questions about it.”