Two sets of second-grade twins baptized at Columbia Heights school

| September 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

Father John Mitchell baptizes Gianna Chiodo during a Mass at Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights. Awaiting his turn is her twin brother, John, right. In the background are the twins’ parents, John, left, and Gwen, right. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Joe Sturdevant’s sleep was cut short the morning of Sept. 28. But the abrupt awakening courtesy of his second-grade daughter, Ava, easily was forgiven.

Her excitement over a life-changing event that would take place that day at Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights was contagious.

“At 5 in the morning, she woke me up and said, ‘I get to get baptized today,’” he said. “Not every child can say that to their parents. So, it was kind of neat.”

Joining Ava in receiving the sacrament were her twin brother, Joseph, and another set of second-grade twins at Immaculate Conception School: John and Gianna Chiodo. In both cases, the students have Catholic fathers and non-Catholic mothers.

Father John Mitchell, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights, prays a blessing over two sets of twins he baptized during Mass: Joseph, front left, and Ava Sturdevant, and John and Gianna Chiodo. In the back row are their parents, from left, Joe and Melissa Sturdevant, and Gwen and John Chiodo.

The entire students body attended the Mass to watch the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, Father John Mitchell, baptize the four students.

“It’s a real honor to have the baptism today of these four children,” Father Mitchell said. “It’s a real privilege to baptize them, especially in the presence of the school community and all their classmates and schoolmates. I think it’s a very memorable experience for them and for everyone in the school.”

Emotions ran high as Father Mitchell called the two families to the baptismal fount near the front of the church one at a time to baptize the four children. Sitting near the front was school principal Jane Bona, who couldn’t help but feel pride and joy as she witnessed the children entering the Church.

“I was teary-eyed throughout the whole thing,” Bona said.  “It was hard to not get choked up. It was very emotional for us. We think it was awesome for all the children to see this, too, because they’re baptized as babies and, of course, they have no memory of it, except in a photo. So, for them to experience watching classmates [be baptized] was just really awesome.”

Second grade often is a time parents start thinking about their children receiving the sacraments, Bona said, because it’s a year in which Catholic children receive both their first reconciliation and first Communion.

However, the process started earlier for the Chiodo and Sturdevant families. They started talking with Bona about Baptism last year, and she encouraged them to talk to Father Mitchell and the parish faith formation director.

But, the parents weren’t the only ones who began inquiring.

“Our daughter Ava has been asking for about nine months to be baptized,” Melissa Sturdevant said. “For me, it just hits home that she wants to follow in the faith and it’s important to her.”

And that, in turn, could have a domino effect. “I’m nondenominational,” Melissa said, but, “I would entertain the thought of learning more about the Catholic faith.”

Bona said that at least one other member of the school’s second grade class is considering baptism, as are the child’s mother and two siblings.

“That would be so awesome to celebrate another four baptisms, one adult and three kids,” she said.

As remarkable as having two sets of twins get baptized on the same day is, Bona considers it just a normal part of spreading the Catholic faith, a mission she is passionate about.

“This is part of what we do in terms of evangelizing,” she said. “We really believe that we are raising disciples of Christ, that we’re bringing people into the faith.”

And, it isn’t just that the family is joining the Church. It’s the other way around, too, John Chiodo noted.

“Our family got bigger with the Church [now added to it],” he said. Now, the children “have got somebody that’s there for them,” he added.

For the Sturdevants, the baptisms also are a continuation of a family legacy at Immaculate Conception.

“My parents were married in this church,” Joe Sturdevant said. “I was baptized in this church, confirmed and … went to religious ed classes. Our children are [now] baptized in the church. That’s a neat thing to carry that on. I didn’t really understand [the importance of] baptism. Now I know how essential it is. We needed to do that sooner than we did.”

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