Sunday, 27 March 2011 16:26

Candidates, catechumens gather at Rite of Election

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Marsha Chomko, pastoral associate for faith formation at St. Jerome Parish in Troy, carries the signed Book of the Elect from the sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during the Rite of Election on Sunday, March 20.Catechumens and candidates attending the Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Baptized Candidates received a warm welcome at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield the second weekend of Lent.

Altogether about 375 catechumens and candidates of all ages, hailing from 63 parishes in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, as well as Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, came to the see city with their sponsors, godparents, family and friends.

Participants included catechumens (unbaptized), Christian candidates for full communion, and Catholic candidates for confirmation and Eucharist. Because so many people participate, the March 19 liturgy was held at 7 p.m. for people living within 50 miles of Springfield while the March 20 liturgy was held at 2:30 p.m. for those who had to travel some distance to attend. For many it was their first visit to the Cathedral.

This was Bishop Thomas John Paprocki’s initial Rite of Election in the Springfield diocese. During his homily on Sunday, he noted that a person’s decision to join the Catholic Church begins with God. “This decision doesn’t start with us, it starts with God,” he said, speaking to the people who filled the Cathedral. “God plants that seed in your heart and then it grows in your heart.”

Bishop Paprocki acknowledged the many months of preparation that are involved when older children, young adults and adults decide to become a Catholic. “Frankly, we don’t baptize just anybody who walks in this door,” he said, speaking from the Cathedral sanctuary. “We have a responsibility in the church to make sure that you are properly prepared.”

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki signs the books at the Cathedral altar. The books are taken back to parish churches where they will remain until the Easter Vigil. In addition to the catechumens and candidates, all Catholics should continually be on course to spend eternity in God’s Kingdom, Bishop Paprocki said. “That’s what we are here about today — all of us are here for our ongoing call to conversion,” he said. “That is what it means to be a Christian.”

During the liturgy, in which the assembly participated, Bishop Paprocki ratified the enrollment of the names of catechumens in the parishes’ Book of the Elect. From now until they are baptized, these individuals will be referred to as “the elect.” Bishop Paprocki then recognized the candidates who will complete their Christian initiation.

Following the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, nothing stands in the way of these people becoming Catholic. For them, Lent is a period of purification and enlightenment, when they and their parish communities focus on conversion and reflect on their decision to join the church.

Although these people gathered in Springfield for this liturgy, the elect and candidates will become full members of the Catholic Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at their own parish Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 23.