SOUTH BEND — The first weekend of Lent marks a pivotal moment for those seeking to fully enter the Roman Catholic Church at Easter. In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades presided over the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion in Fort Wayne on Saturday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and South Bend on Sunday at St. Matthew Cathedral.
The Rite of Election includes the enrollment of names of all those seeking Baptism at the coming Easter Vigil. Typically, on the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens, their sponsors and families gather at the cathedral church. The catechumens publicly express their desire for Baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in a book and they are called “the elect.”
Next, those baptized Christians seeking full communion with the Catholic Church are also enrolled.
Sunday at St. Matthew Cathedral, Bishop Rhoades welcomed 106 catechumens and 112 candidates, representing 22 parishes from South Bend to Walkerton and including students from the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College.
In Fort Wayne, Bishop Rhoades welcomed 88 catechumens and 145 candidates.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades talked about the journey of faith and how it lasts a lifetime.
“Our catechumens will be born anew by Baptism,” said Bishop Rhoades. “They and our candidates will be strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation. All will receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. The sacraments of initiation, as the catechism teaches, ‘lay the foundations of every Christian life.’”
Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Rhoades called faith both an act of God’s grace and a human response of the mind and the heart.
“My brothers and sisters, I encourage you today to persevere in faith throughout your lives,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Never let go of this priceless gift! In order to persevere in faith, especially in times of trial, we must nourish it with the word of God and with the sacraments. Without this nourishment, our faith will not live and grow. When we falter, as we all do, we can get up again with the grace of Confession, the grace of the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.”
Bishop Rhoades also encouraged everyone to be faithful to Holy Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation.
“You can be tempted to forsake the Sunday obligation,” he acknowledged. “See this for what it is: a temptation to drift away from the Lord. Every one of us needs to be nourished with the Word of God and with the grace of the Holy Eucharist, our food on the journey to heaven.”
Bishop Rhoades said to persevere in faith, it is necessary to ask the Lord to increase our faith.
“To persevere in faith means we persevere in prayer,” said Bishop Rhoades. “Prayer is what makes our faith real and concrete. Faith is not merely an acceptance of truths that can appear abstract. It involves a living relationship as children of God with our Father, with His Son Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit. It is a relationship based on love of the One who loved us first. It involves not only learning from Jesus as our Teacher, but knowing Him as our Friend and Brother. Ultimately our happiness and peace, in this life and the next, depends on this encounter with Jesus and on friendship with Him.”
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades greets catechumen and their godparents at the Rite of Election at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend on Feb. 17.
The Rite of Election and Call of Candidates to Continuing Conversion was held Feb. 16 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.
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