Catechumens and candidates in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend declared their desire to be joined to Christ and His Church during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, celebrated Feb. 26 at St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, and March 5 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.
The catechumens, who are called the Elect following the Rite of Election, are unbaptized individuals who will enter the Catholic Church by receiving the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and the holy Eucharist — the night of April 15 at the Easter Vigil Mass. Candidates, or those who are already baptized and wish to complete their initiation into the church, will receive the sacraments of Eucharist and confirmation the same evening.
Their godparents and sponsors presented the catechumens and candidates to Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during the liturgies. Catechumens were asked to write their names in the “Book of the Elect,” which was then presented for Bishop to sign in an event called the Enrollment of Names.
During his homily at both Masses, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the “holy journey, a journey of faith” on which all 481 of the catechumens and candidates were traveling. He gave thanks to God for how, “guided by the Holy Spirit, you have been growing in faith, attracted to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus as it has been preserved and handed on in its fullness in the Catholic Church.”
Recalling the Gospel reading, in which John the Baptist pointed Jesus out to two of His disciples, Bishop noted the parallel between John directing them to look at Jesus and to follow Him and the spouses, relatives or friends of the catechumens and candidates who led them to Him and invited them to follow Jesus in His church. He once again thanked God, this time for those modern-day John the Baptists.
In that same Gospel reading, the two disciples, Andrew and Simon, then engage the Lord in conversation.
“I invite you to identify yourselves with these two disciples in the Gospel,” the bishop said. “In their little dialogue with Jesus, they asked Him where He was staying. Jesus responded with an invitation and a promise: “Come, and you will see.” The Lord has invited you to come and see: to come to faith in Him and to see who He is. Jesus invites you stay with Him,” the bishop said. “The Lord is inviting you to be part of the community He founded, the Catholic Church, in order to know Him and to receive His life, His grace, in the sacraments, great gifts of His love. He wants you to be united with Him in His Body, the Church, and to remain in Him and in His love. You are answering Jesus’ invitation: “Come and see.” He invites you to an intimate and lasting personal relationship with Him.”
The bishop also spoke about Simon, one of the two disciples in the reading, being given a new name by Jesus.
“Simon’s new name indicates he is entering a new stage in his life… Simon becomes Cephas, the Rock, the foundation of the Church that Jesus will build. Catechumens, the Lord will give you a new name when you are baptized and that name is ‘Christian.’ Many of you, catechumens and candidates, will choose a new name at Confirmation, the name of a saint. This expresses the newness of what is happening in your life. It is the newness of life in Christ. And you will live that life within the community that Jesus established on the rock who is St. Peter, the Catholic Church, the apostolic Church, the community that is led by the successors of Peter and the apostles, the Pope and the bishops, those through whom Christ preserves the faith and unity of His Body, the Church.”
While all Catholics are encouraged to use the 40 days of Lent to prepare for the joyful celebration of the resurrection, the period is one of more intense spiritual preparation for the catechumens and candidates, Bishop said. But he and all of the faithful would be praying for them and looking forward to their joining in at the table of the Eucharist, growing in holiness and communion with Christ, and to their joining in the mission of evangelization, he said.
“The Lord will give you His true Body and Blood as spiritual food, not only at Easter, but throughout the journey of your life. He will nourish you with His grace. My prayer is that your discovery of Christ and your communion with Him in His Church will grow and deepen in the years ahead, that you will grow in holiness through your communion with Christ in His Body, the Church. And I pray that, like Andrew, who brought his brother to Jesus, you in turn will bring others to Him as well.”
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