Welcome Aboard

March 9-15, 2006
Welcome Aboard
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
The Southern Region celebrates the Rite of Election

Potential Catholics from the Southern Tier took another step toward joining the Universal Church Sunday at St. Mary’s in Kirkwood.
The gathered catechumens and candidates were given the witness of Bishop Thomas Costello at the Rite of Election during the Lenten season. Father Joseph Scardella, the director of the Office of Ministerial Formation, Liturgy and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, said that the Rite of Election is highlight for those who are new to the Catholic faith. First, the catechumens and candidates are granted the witness of the bishop and, second, it is their first experience of the broad community included within the Catholic Church.

“People are always overwhelmed by the numbers,” Father Scardella said. Father Scardella noted that when he was parish priest, the Rite of Election was one of his own highlights and that it is also a positive experience for the bishops. “It’s good for the bishop,” Father Scardella said. “We don’t always get the best press so it’s good for the bishop to see people still hungering for Christ.”

Father Thomas Catucci, the pastor at St. Mary’s, took the time to note the wonder of seeing so many different people of many different backgrounds coming together on the path to Catholic Christianity. The reconfiguration of the church has also led to many parishes working in tandem and Father Catucci noted that his church in Kirkwood had summoned the aid of nearby Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor (Windsor and Kirkwood share a common school district). The musical ensemble was a joint effort from both parishes and Father Jay Booth of Our Lady of Lourdes offered a welcome of his own.

“It’s always a thrill to see the life that is this church and how it renews itself,” Father Booth said in reference to the Rite of Election. “We welcome you to this summons because you have heard. You’ve answered that longing in your spirit because we are of you and you are of us and we are of God.” Bishop Costello offered the opening prayer, introducing it with a little levity. “This is a ceremony that doesn’t need a lot of words – it explains itself,” the auxiliary bishop said. “But that’s never stopped me before.”

Bishop Costello elaborated on the difference between “catechumens” and “candidates.” The former are those who are joining the church and are seeking a Catholic baptism, whereas the latter are those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church but have gone without the experience of a First Communion. “Today is a day for decision,” he said, cataloging all those involved in the process from godparents and sponsors; to teachers, instructors and catechists; to catechumens and candidates. “Our decision is that indeed these people are ready for admission,” he said. The bishop added that there was another crucial entity in the process of election: God. “While all of us do some choosing, it’s not just us. God has a part in it,” he said. “Our analysis has a role but it’s God’s call. Jesus said, ‘It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you.’” During the closing remarks of his homily, Bishop Costello stressed the fact that the catechumens and candidates are in the process of joining something much larger and more ancient than themselves and that the Rite of Election is route of joining.

“When we leave here today, it is to go on a journey together and the destination is Easter,” he said. The catechumens were the first summoned to the altar where they stood before the attendees and, along with their godparents, were affirmed in their stage of joining the church. The final phase of the celebration of election in which the catechumens lined up and signed, with the accompaniment of their godparents, the Book of the Elect. Afterward, Bishop Costello presented the newly signed pages to those in attendance will applause signifying their approval. Next, the candidates presented themselves for the Celebration of the Call to Continuing Conversion. The candidates celebration concluded with similar applause.

Father Catucci said he enjoyed hosting the Rite of Election immensely, once again noting how pleasing it was to see the heterogenous composition of those in attendance. “Here we are, a potpourri,” he said. “It’s as if we were all transformed all at once into the body of Christ.” A native of Nigeria, Adeolu Ademoyo arrived in the Southern Tier in 2003 as a PhD candidate in the philosophy department at Binghamton University. After Sunday, the attendee of St. Thomas Aquinas was a candidate for full membership in the Catholic Church. As a youth in Akura, Nigeria, Ademoyo received his primary education at a Catholic school. The experience carried over into his young adulthood.

“The profoundness of Catholic religious education represents the most meaningful path for reconciliation with God,” he said. “The social and economic problems of the day are all resolvable through that reconciliation.” Ademoyo, whose parents are Protestants in the Anglican denomination, added that he found Catholic spirituality to be “profound and deep” and that it “represents order and authority.”

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