Catechumens and Candidates recognized across all regions simultaneously
By Connie Berry
Bright skies and cold temperatures were outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception while warm hearts and welcome arms filled the inside of the church on Sunday, March 1 during the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion. This year’s event was exceptional with the regional episcopal vicars presiding over the 2 p.m. services held across the regions simultaneously. Bishop James Moynihan is still recovering from knee surgery and was unable to attend. Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel presided at the Cathedral, Father Joseph Salerno presided at Holy Family Church in Vernon and Father John Putano presided at St. John-St. Andrew’s Church in Binghamton. The Northern Region was recognized at the Cathedral along with the Western Region. According to Father Joseph Scardella, director of Ministerial Formation for the diocese, the rite is usually presided over by the bishops.
The Catechumens represent those who have not been baptized but who are experiencing a call to conversion to Christ and welcoming into the Catholic faith. The Candidates are those Christians who have already been baptized and are asking to be welcomed into the Catholic Church. Both groups totaled over 100 faithful this year. The sanctuary of the Cathedral was packed as 75 Candidates and 61 Catechumens were presented for affirmation from the Western and Northern Regions. Msgr. Yeazel noted the large group and said, “I think we need a bigger sanctuary.”
Before the rite began, Theresa May, director of the Western Region Religious Education Office, welcomed everyone. “This is a celebration of new life in Christ,” May said. She also remembered Bishop Moynihan and asked that those gathered keep him in their prayers. Msgr. Yeazel also recognized the mending bishop in his opening remarks.
Msgr. Yeazel said many of the participants may have been encouraged to make the decision to come into the church because of a spouse, a friend or a co-worker, but, he said, the real reason they were there was because they were called by God.
“Maybe we think we’ve gotten here because someone said, ‘Why don’t you come and see what it’s like.’ No matter how we think we got here, we got here because God called us here,” Msgr. Yeazel said.
The rite takes place during Lent, a time of renewal and reflection for the universal church. Oftentimes Lent is associated with repentance and denial. Father Scardella presented a different aspect of Lent during his homily. He referred to Lent as his favorite time of the year.
“Lent is truly a gift to all of us,” Father Scardella said. “It is a serious time, a time of reflection and intent. Would we really take the time to reflect and look at our lives without this time the church gives us?”
One of the reasons Father Scardella cited as to why he loves this particular liturgical season is that, “I know I will come away the better for. Not because of liturgical law or a sense of guilt — we know the world is hard on us and we have our own weak spirits — but because I know we have the whole church supporting us. We are not alone in this,” he said.
The participants sat with their parishes, and in many cases with their pastors, as they were welcomed into the church. They were each called by name to come forward to the sanctuary. Msgr. Yeazel asked their godparents and their sponsors if they were ready and prepared for the next step on their faith journey. After they were affirmed with resounding applause, the Candidates and Catechumens took their seats. There were hugs and pats on the back as they were congratulated by their parish families.
“Your names will be called one by one,” Father Scardella said. “You have recognized God’s call and you have responded. So it is in the parish that you will take your place as a Catholic.”