Kalolaine Peneueta-Warmsley was among 12 new Catholics welcomed into the faith during the Easter Vigil at St. Viator Catholic Community in Las Vegas. They included four who were baptized, one who was welcomed into the church and seven who were confirmed.

For Kay, it was the culmination of a long journey but one that enriched her — and her new parish.

Fr. Richard Rinn prepares to anoint Kalolaine Peneueta-Warmsley, with her sponsor, Mary Burns, right.

Fr. Richard Rinn, CSV, Pastor, celebrated the Easter vigil and baptized Kay as a new Catholic. Even before she received the sacrament, Kay and her family presented Fr. Rinn with a lei from their native Tonga.

“As part of our culture we present the lei as a offer of celebration, honor, friendship and greeting,” explained Kay’s sister, Amelia Pomee, who is part of the Tongan Catholic community in Riverside, CA.

Kay brings her Polynesian culture to St. Viator, whose website clearly states that the parish welcomes people of diverse backgrounds, from all over the United States and beyond. The Tongan Catholic community started gaining worldwide attention in 2015, when Cardinal Soane Mafi was elevated to the College of Cardinals. He was the first Tongan cardinal and at the time, the youngest.

“At first I was a little nervous attending this parish due to the fact that I had always gone to church with my own people, the Tongans and Samoans,” Kay says. “Arriving at Mass on Easter Sunday of 2022 I did not know what to expect. Then when the choir started singing my heart and worries and stress melted away.”

Fr. Rinn with his lei from Tonga

She ultimately joined the RCIA program, or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which both challenged her and moved her to want to learn about the faith. Her husband, Justinn, was part of the RCIA class in 2021 at St. Viator.

“Every Mass since then, the Welcoming Committee has always welcomed me with a smile, but it’s the energy, you could actually feel the love of Christ when coming to Mass,” Kay says. “I wanted to be baptized in the Catholic Church because I wanted to be part of a community of faith that shares the love of Jesus and that helps the community in general. But I also wanted to be a better person for myself and my family.”