2/24 — 3/2, 2005
‘Now I Feel Complete’
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Candidates and Catechumens experience Rite of Election and Call to Conversion
“I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be safe.”
— John 10:9
On Sunday, Feb. 13, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was filled with family members, friends, sponsors and religious who came to witness close to 200 catechumens and candidates representing 71 parishes in the Western Region of the diocese participating in the Rite of Election and celebrating the Call to Conversion. During the first weekend of Lent, these individuals joined 187 others representing 40 parishes at ceremonies held at churches in each region of the diocese. These individuals went forth before the bishops of Syracuse and stated their desire to become members of the Catholic faith and publicly committed themselves to act as Disciples of Christ. The Rite of Election is the third step in the journey to becoming Catholic and marks the end of formal study of the teachings and practices of the church. During his homily, Bishop James Moynihan said, “This is one of the great events of our liturgical year. There were certain great milestone moments in the life of our Blessed Lord. In Temple at the age of 12, when He realized He must be about His Father’s business; at His baptism in Jordan, when He realized that the hour had come for him to begin His public ministry; and today’s Gospel records another great milestone moment in the life of Jesus Christ. He is about to begin His campaign.”
“Well, today also marks a milestone moment in the lives of our catechumens and candidates. On this weekend we celebrate the Rite of Election –– their election, which is a major element in what we call the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). On this weekend in the Diocese of Syracuse, 152 catechumens and 234 candidates –– 386 total individuals will publicly make known that they wish to be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil celebration,” said Bishop Moynihan. The catechumens signed the Book of Elect, signaling their willingness and preparedness before Bishop Moynihan to unite with the Catholic Church. Catechumens are individuals seeking to join the church.
RCIA coordinator at St. Augustine’s Church in Baldwinsville, Debbie Krisher, and Sister Paula Jude Egan, CSJ, RCIA coordinator at St. Ann’s Parish in Syracuse, addressed Bishop Moynihan and asked for his acceptance of the catechumens and candidates. “Bishop Moynihan, Easter is drawing near and these catechumens and candidates who we now present to you are completing their period of preparation. They have found strength in God’s grace and support in our community’s prayers and example. Now they ask that after the celebration of scrutinies, they be allowed to participate in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.”
After the invitation and enrollment of the names, the bishop asked the candidates to respond clearly to the call of Christ in the presence of the entire church. The individuals responded affirmatively when the bishop asked them if it was their wish to enter fully into the life of the church. “My friends, I now declare you to be members of the Elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil,” said Bishop Moynihan.
The candidates, who have been baptized in the Christian faith, were also presented to the bishop seeking to complete their Christian initiation and celebrate their Call to Conversion. The candidates are preparing for the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation that will take place on Easter Sunday. The Rite of Election and Call to Conversion ties in with the Lenten season, which is a season of baptismal preparation and renewal.
Todd and Staci Coombs are members of St. Ann’s Parish in Syracuse. They and their three children are going through the preparations to make the sacraments during the Easter Vigil. As catechumens, Todd and the children have been preparing for the sacrament of baptism. Staci, already baptized in the Catholic faith, will make her First Communion and confirmation.
“My sister-in-law had a baby recently who was baptized,” said Todd. “My wife and I questioned why we hadn’t done it with our own children.” Todd said that the preparation to receive the sacraments has been much more meaningful because they are doing it as a family. “In reflecting on it, the whole process has been great,” said Todd. “The kids, especially the youngest, have had a lot of questions about religion. There were a lot of them I couldn’t answer or explain. Now, a lot of their questions are getting answered.”
Cynthia Griffith, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Assumption in Baldwinsville, decided to participate in the RCIA program because of her longing to become a Catholic. As a candidate, Griffith will participate in Christian initiation and celebrate the Call to Conversion during the Easter Vigil. “I was raised and baptized Episcopalian,” said Griffith. “But I’ve been searching from the time I was a child.” Griffith said that she tried several different religions before deciding that she didn’t feel complete. “The searching I did in those other churches was just a journey,” she said. Since beginning the RCIA Program at St. Mary’s Griffith feels like she has come home. “As a Christian, Christ has always been in my life. But now I feel complete by the liturgy and the doctrines of the Catholic Church.”