California woman baptized by pope at Easter service

Heidi Sierras has been preparing for it for more than a year, and Saturday evening it happened: The 29-year- old woman from Ceres, Calif., was baptized by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome's St. Peter's Basilica, followed by confirmation and her first Eucharist as a new member of the Catholic Church.

"I feel complete now," she said via e-mail after the service. "I felt empty before, but now I am complete."

The three-hour Easter Vigil service, the most holy Mass of the year, was said in Latin and Italian, with five Scripture readings in Spanish, German, French, English and Italian. It ended shortly after midnight in Rome.

Wearing a stylish black suit with her hair curling around her shoulders, Sierras was one of five adults who were baptized and received Holy Communion from the hand of the pope. The others -- a woman and two men from Italy and a woman from China -- also received the rare honor.

In the congregation were about 40 of Sierras' family and friends from St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Modesto, including the pastor, the Rev. Joseph Illo, and Sierras' sponsor, Wilma Cabacungan, who also participated in the service.

The pope baptizes as many as seven people a year, representing the seven continents of the world. Sierras represented North and South America.

Sierras and her husband, Daniel, and their two oldest children, Ethan, 10, and Kayla, 9, flew to Rome on April 2. The two younger children, Logan, 4, and Eleanor, 3 months, stayed at home with relatives.

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