By Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic
A large group of women and men who will join the Catholic Church within the Diocese of Venice at the Easter Vigil were recognized during the annual Rite of Election at Epiphany Cathedral on the first Sunday of Lent on March 10. This annual tradition is a formal Rite during which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of Elect.
The 148 catechumens were joined by an additional 120 candidates who also participated in the formal ceremony and are recognized during the celebration for answering the call to their continuing conversion.
The Rite of Election was presided over by Bishop Frank J. Dewane who complimented each for making the commitment to answer the call of Jesus Christ in a particular way by becoming members of the Church in the Diocese of Venice. “This is where the catechumens and candidates come forward with courage to step up and today proudly say: ‘I am called!’”
The catechumens and candidates who were recognized by Bishop Dewane will be welcomed as part of the Easter Vigil celebration on April 20 at their respective parishes. They represent 40 Parishes in the Diocese of Venice and are accompanied by more than 150,000 people across the country that will also join the Catholic Church this year. St. Peter the Apostles Parish in Naples, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee and Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers had the largest groups of catechumens and candidates.
The decision each made in their life is part of a journey to grow ever closer to the Lord and to become fully a part of the Church of God, Bishop Dewane said. Each came forward for different reasons, but a key first step in this process is developing a personal friendship with Jesus Christ.
Bishop Dewane said this process should be a conversion of the heart, as each catechumen and candidate must prevent outside influences, such as things, people or objects, standing in their way of developing that relationship with the Lord.
“Go forward knowing the Holy Spirit will aid you in this journey,” the Bishop added. “You have been called to be catechumens and candidates… it is human nature to stumble along the way – but keep working to become ever more that man or woman of God you are called to be.”
The catechumens are part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). RCIA is for those who are unbaptized and unchurched, who come to inquire about becoming part of the Roman Catholic Faith. Often catechumens are those who have begun to seek and understand God in their lives and have been led by the Holy Spirit to become Catholic.
RCIA is not simply a course on Catholicism; it is a journey of discovery and faith. This is most commonly done is three distinct phases: discernment, acceptance into the catechumenate and purification and enlightenment.
Each catechumen will go through a series of scrutinies during which they examine their readiness to accept Christ and the Catholic Faith in the form of the Sacraments of Initiation. This time culminates at the Easter Vigil when the catechumens are received through Baptism into the Catholic Church. The final period of the RCIA is the time of “Mystagogy” (post-baptismal catechesis). During the weeks following the Easter Vigil, the newly initiated live more profoundly their experience of Baptism and the Eucharist as they begin the journey of discipleship and their growing union with Christ.
For candidates, those who have been baptized in the name of the Trinity, the Catholic Church does not require re-Baptism. Candidates have already experienced a journey of faith and have some understanding of how Jesus leads us to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, many have been attending Mass with their families for years but may have never received the Sacrament of Holy Communion or the Sacrament of Confirmation. Candidates, therefore, are in a separate group and are not necessarily required to wait an entire year before being welcomed into the Church.
The candidates are invited to the Cathedral for the Rite of Election as a form of welcome, but because they are already in the Book of the Elect as baptized Christians, they do not bring their names forward; rather they come forward and make the sign of the cross with holy water as a reminder of their Baptism and sign of their continuing conversion.
Everyone is encouraged to pray for and welcome the catechumens and candidates at their own parish as they continue their journey of discovery in their Faith.