New record for catechumens in 2024! Who are the Easter baptized?

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This year again, the number of catechumens is increasing, confirming a trend established for around ten years. Young, rural, from a non-believing background… Who are the future baptized people on Easter night 2024?

he Holy Spirit blows where he wants, and this year again, he did so generously for the catechumens. In 2024, there will be 7,135 adults and at least 5,000 adolescents to receive baptism on Easter night or morning , according to figures from the National Catechesis and Catechumenate Service (SNCC). This is 30% more than in 2023, an already exceptional year since an increase of 28% was noted compared to 2022. If this increase is confirmed in all age groups, young people are the most concerned. More than a third of future newly baptized people are between 18 and 25 years old. Not counting adolescents: their number has even jumped by more than 50% compared to 2023. Furthermore, the share of high school students is also increasing, even if middle school students remain more numerous.

More and more rural people are baptized

Increasingly young, those baptized in 2024 also increasingly come from the countryside. If still only 29% of them come from rural areas, it is the diocese of Saint-Claude, in Jura, which nevertheless records the biggest increase in catechumens in all of France: 8 catechumens in 2023 compared to 27 in 2024, more than 200% in one year!

Younger and younger, more often from the countryside… An underlying trend well illustrated by the diocese of Digne, in Provence. No less than 14 teenagers are on their way to baptism there, even though the diocese only has two high schools. “Many ask questions on deep themes and discuss things with each other,” explains Catherine Chevalier, director of the SNCC. There is a collective aspect, but it is not superficial because the catechumenate allows real maturation in reflection. » A surprise that the bishops do not know how to explain but which arouses wonder in them. 

The profile of catechumens is also evolving in other aspects, in particular that of family and religious origins. Although 61% of them are from the Christian tradition, more and more of the newly baptized come from non-believing families. This year, the latter even represent a quarter of the catechumens, while they were only 11% of the newly baptized in 2023. 

“A joyful surprise”

Faced with so much dynamism, the observer is tormented by a question: how can we explain this incredible vitality of the catechumenate? If we could believe that the sharp increase in catechumens in recent years was the result of making up for the drop in baptisms during Covid, this year’s figures point towards another avenue. “This increase is indeed an underlying trend,” confirms Catherine Chevalier. It’s more of a rebound effect of Covid than a catch-up. » Among the people who request baptism, Covid was even the starting point of their journey. “For many, it was a very important time for reflection, particularly because of loneliness and concerns about existential questions,” explains the director of SNCC. They indicate that faith was a resource at that time. »

But we must not forget that the reasons for so many conversions remain mostly mysterious. “It is difficult to answer the question why,” replies Catherine Chevalier. We cannot fully explain it, the bishops speak of a “joyful surprise”, which does not necessarily have a link with pastoral action”. “God arrives first,” she smiles, “it’s often the result of an inner call. » This inner call can be heard during meetings, particularly with priests, but also through the beauty of religious heritage. “A cross in a celebration, the light through the stained glass windows, the silence and the atmosphere of peace in churches are often mentioned,” reports Catherine Chevalier. By arousing curiosity, tranquility or even a feeling of surpassing something greater, this rich heritage mysteriously continues to work towards the encounter with God. These testimonies of newly baptized people are as much sources of wonder as they are a call to a true requirement for the Church: that of welcoming and accompanying as best as possible these new children of God, to be worthy of this fabulous gift from Heaven. .

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