By Dc Tom Cuskey, editor

Most of us well-worn Catholics think of Lent in the traditional sense of almsgiving, fasting and reverent prayer. Think ashes and sacrifice. To a special group of people looking forward to being newly received in the faith, though, Lent is a bright time of excitement and joy.

Sixty-two catechumens, representing 28 diocesan parish communities, were recently welcomed to the final steps of their Catholic initiation preparation during the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. Sent from their individual communities, from Masses held at their parish churches on the First Sunday of Lent, the catechumens are now elected to receive their sacraments and to be accepted into the Church at the Easter Vigil. 

A catechumen is an unbaptized person who has been studying and discerning the faith. The process is known as RCIA, which stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The participants, their families and their mentors and sponsors are thrilled and humbled to be on the path together. 

“It’s been really amazing,” says Lindsey Bush, a senior at LeMoyne College in Syracuse and a catechumen. “It’s amazing to learn about God and how I can best communicate with Him, as well as being given all the support to discover him in the first place.”

Lindsey was raised without a religious tradition and started to become aware of her faith calling while in high school. Coming to LeMoyne, a Jesuit institution, changed everything. 

“I was able to really find God, find myself in God, and find God in me.” She credits campus ministry with guiding her along her journey. Her family was present at the rite and have been very supportive. 

Sr. Ann Kenyon, OSF, is part of the RCIA team at LeMoyne. Two students participated in the Rite of Election accompanied by two others in the program who are candidates, someone who has been baptized and will now receive the sacraments to bring them into full communion with the Church. Sister observes that these are “very special students, to be focused on studies and academics and still be looking at what else they need to do to in preparation for the life ahead of them.” She adds that “it strengthens my own faith when I see and hear what they are going through and how they are open to the Spirit.”

Sister Mary Joana works in the RCIA process at St. Vincent DePaul parish in Syracuse. The church is home to a vibrant African community. She accompanied three young people to the Rite who are joining their congregation, two from South Sudan and the other from the Central African Republic.

“They are refugees,” Sister explained. “We are so happy, we are glad, we are grateful to God that he has helped these children to express the desire to join the Catholic community. This is a great day!”

In his homily for the occasion, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia focused on choices we make in our lives, and to especially reflect on them during this penitential season, “and the place they have taken us.” Bishop added that “this means that we have to make new choices on our journey of salvation.” To this gathering of people who are making the intentional choice to follow Christ in the Catholic tradition, Bishop reminded all that the Holy Spirit moves our hearts and “that now is the time for all of us to open our lives to God.”

Sister Mary Joana echoed that sentiment, welcoming the newly elect and observing that “the joy they show is that here, we are one.” 

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the process of Christian Initiation for adults or children, contact a Catholic parish close to you or reach out to the diocesan Office of Liturgy and R.C.I.A. at 315-470-1420.

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