By Jennika Baines
Sun Associate Editor
Hundreds gathered in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, March 13 to welcome candidates and catechumens who are on the journey to coming into full communion with the Catholic Church at this year’s Rite of Election.
Father Joseph Scardella, director of the Office of Ministerial Formation and Liturgy and RCIA, has been involved in the Rite of Election for over 20 years, but he said he never tires of it.
“This is one of the most uplifting ceremonies in the life of the church,” Father Scardella said. “It shows the evangelization going on in the church. It’s really the fruit of God’s work.”
The rite always take place during Lent, a time of reflection and renewal in faith. Usually, there are separate Rites of Election held in each region of the diocese. This is the first year the diocese has combined all of the regions into one ceremony.
Father Scardella said there wasn’t really much difference in the organization of the day because there was only one ceremony to put together rather than four. Plus, he said, it was a good opportunity for catechumens and candidates to meet others like them from different parishes.
“We liked having the whole diocese together,” Father Scardella said.
Philip La Due, co-director of the RCIA program at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Endicott, said that some were a little uneasy at first with the change.
“We were kind of skeptical because we had always had one for the Southern region. We got 15 to 20 churches and there was always a reception afterward,” he said.
La Due said he wondered if the Rite would present the same opportunity to have candidates and catechumens personally meet with the bishop. “We thought, ‘Is he really going to shake hands and say hello to everybody?’” La Due said. “But he did. He talked with everybody. I think the bishop had a very strong feeling about bringing everyone together.”
One of the nicest things was for the candidates to see so many other Catholics, he said.
“We always teach them that they are members of a larger church,” La Due said, “but they’d never seen it until then. It was a chance for them to see, ‘There are so many people just like me.’ You spend so much time in your church and they see there are only four of us, and then you come to the Cathedral and you see so many more. It really was a wonderful experience.”
Added to the opportunity to stand with so many other catechumens and candidates was the overwhelming number of friends and family members also in attendance for the ceremony. With assigned seating for parishes, free seats were hard to come by, even with extra chairs brought in.
Even the bus journey up was a good experience in community, LaDue said. Around four parishes would share a bus, and candidates, sponsors and family members ate their lunches and chatted on the way to Syracuse.
“There was that great conversation of ‘I’m from St. So-and-so and what is your process like?’” La Due said.
Father Michael Galuppi, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, said for three of the parish’s four candidates, it was the first time they had been in the Cathedral. “I really enjoyed seeing the excitement on the faces of the candidates,” Father Galuppi said.
“It was really a great day for them,” La Due said, “and on the way back it was all they could talk about.”
Some of the youngest catechumens were from St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale. The church’s candidates included Kassidy Bowering, 12, along with siblings Lasett Baker, 14, Natalia Nesci, 13 and Chris Nesci, 11.
“The rest of my family, they’ve been baptized and we’re doing this all on the Easter Vigil,” Kassidy said.
Chris said he wasn’t that nervous about getting up in front of everyone at the Cathedral, he’d done that sort of thing at school.
Kassidy shook her head. “Well, gosh, I am,” she said.
Chris said he and his siblings were going through the RCIA process at their mother’s urging.
“My Mom wanted to get us into this because she’s very religious,” Chris said. “She loves God the most, He’s the most important in her whole life.”
His sister Natalia added that their mother also wants them to have godparents to help them in their lives.
Valerie Baker, their mother, said the kids love going to the RCIA classes. “And I wanted them to do it because I wanted them to be saved,” Baker said.
Theresa Vaga is the director of Faith Formation at St. Margaret’s. She said she usually works with adults in the RCIA process, but she’s loved her experience with the children. She said she had just met with some other RCIA teachers and was telling them how much she’s enjoyed her experience with the children.
“It’s refreshing. They’re so open to everything that is new,” Vaga said. “Their faith is just that, it’s a faith and they’re willing to take it all in.”