March 5, 2024 // Bishop

Catechumens, Candidates Enter Final Preparations After Rite of Election

At the Rite of Election, Bishop Rhoades clarified that the event wasn’t “a political election – no one has voted for you.” He paused, then added, generating laughter in the congregation, “Well, God has.”

Bishop Rhoades celebrated the Rite of Election for South Bend area parishes on Sunday, February 25, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. The cathedral was almost completely full of candidates and their sponsors, catechumens and their godparents.

Photos by Kasia Balsbaugh
Bishop Rhoades enters names as the catechumens from different parishes are presented to him.

The Rite of Election was originated in the first centuries of the early Church. It is a way to formally accept those deciding to be baptized in the Catholic Church and send them off on their final preparations before entering the Church at the Easter Vigil. For this reason, the rite is generally celebrated early in Lent. After a Liturgy of the Word, the catechumens are enrolled as members of the elect, and their godparents affirm their good faith. The Rite of Election is then followed by a similar rite, the Call to Continuing Conversion, for those who are already baptized but plan to complete full initiation into the Catholic Church.

As Bishop Rhoades explained in his homily, “It’s called election because the choice – the election – of our catechumens for Christian initiation at the Easter sacraments is founded on their election by God. The Church acts in the name of Christ, who has chosen you to be His disciples.”

Bishop Rhoades pointed out that we may be uncomfortable with the idea of “election,” that it may seem unfair to the modern, equality-minded person. And yet, in the Old Testament, God is constantly choosing some over others – Israel to be a Chosen People, Abraham to be “father of the nations,” Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery. That tension, Bishop Rhoades said, is the reason the Church holds the Rite of Election.

Candidates stand with their sponsors while Bishop Rhoades exhorts them to continue listening for the Lord.

“In the Bible, election is always for service, not for power and glory,” Bishop Rhoades said, adding that the Christian’s mission is to spread the Kingdom of God.

Nor does God choose people based on importance or impressiveness. “Think about the Twelve Apostles Jesus chose,” Bishop Rhoades said. “If you’ve watched the series ‘The Chosen,’ it’s quite clear that these men weren’t chosen because of their greatness.”

He added, “Catechumens, like the disciples whom Jesus chose or elected, you have not merited this election. It’s a pure grace.”

Dustin Philipson from St. Therese, Little Flower Parish will be entering the Church this spring. While he remembers being baptized in his Evangelical church as a high schooler, Philipson has no record or certainty of the event, so he will be baptized into the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil as well as receive the other sacraments of initiation.

After leaving his Evangelical church in his late 20s in disillusionment, Philipson said he became a “hard partier” for several years. After having a near-death experience on his motorbike, Philipson took steps to sobriety and started taking faith seriously again. “Christ had never completely vacated my heart,” Philipson said.

Photos by Kasia Balsbaugh
Sponsors stand with their hands on their confirmands during the presentation of the candidates for full communion into the Catholic Church during the Rite of Election at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend on Sunday, February 25.

After trying out different churches, Philipson wavered between Mormonism and Catholicism. He eventually walked out of the Mormon temple and came to St. Therese, Little Flower Parish. Philipson said that in a few instances in his life, “The voice of God was saying, ‘You know you don’t believe this,’” adding that those moments ended up “pulling me back to Christian orthodoxy and the Trinitarian God.” Philipson said the Church’s reverence for Mary was one of his main draws to Catholicism, as well as the nonpolitical nature of the Church.

Philipson attended the Rite of Election at St. Matthew Cathedral. “Eight months of Mass have prepped me somewhat for something like the Rite of Election,” Philipson said, adding, “You get a sense that this is part of a longer tradition.” He said he appreciated Bishop Rhoades’ message about the nature of election and found the vestments “fascinating.” Philipson stressed that Catholics should not be afraid to share these unique things about Catholicism with Protestants.

Bishop Rhoades encouraged all the catechumens and candidates at the rite as they prepare for a big step in their lives. “May you prepare well during this period of purification and enlightenment, and we pledge our prayers for you during this holy season of Lent,” Bishop Rhoades told them.

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