FORT WAYNE — The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne was filled to capacity on the first Sunday of Lent with catechumens, candidates, their sponsors, families and friends. The event was the Rite of Election and Call of Candidates to Continuing Conversion, an important step in the catechumens’ and candidates’ journey on the path to full communion with the Catholic Church.
Catechumens are those unbaptized persons who are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil. Candidates are those persons who were baptized in another faith tradition and are preparing to receive Confirmation and/or Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.
Celebrant for the liturgy was the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s newly-installed Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
Bishop Rhoades greeted the assembly warmly. “It’s wonderful to be with you this afternoon,” he said, and noted it was his first opportunity to celebrate the Rite of Election in his new diocese. He will celebrate another such liturgy at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend on the second Sunday in Lent.
The bishop began with a brief explanation of the term “election” when used in the context of the catechumens’ faith journey. Most people are familiar with the political overtones of the word, he said, but in this case “election” means that God chooses his people to believe in Him and to live with Him in love. Today’s catechumens will become the “elect” of God, that is, they will become God’s people consecrated to give Him honor and glory, the bishop pointed out.
Just as importantly, the candidates in continuing conversion will also be received into the full sacramental life of the Catholic Church. Both catechumens and candidates are on a journey of faith, he said, attracted to the truth of the Gospel of Christ.
Bishop Rhoades put the day’s events in a broader perspective for his listeners. Just as it is appropriate for them to come before their bishop, successor of the apostles, it is equally important for them to assemble in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, mother church of the diocese and symbol of the universal church, he said.
A highlight of the ceremony was the formal introduction of catechumens and candidates to Bishop Rhoades by their parish representatives as each person stepped forward with his sponsor for a handshake and personal greeting from the bishop.
He assured them, “The person of Our Lord Jesus Christ has called you … He will be with you,” and promised to keep them in his prayers as they continue on their path to full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.
In closing, Bishop Rhoades said, “It gives me great joy to be with you here in prayer.” He told them, “You have found Christ. Following him and living in his love is the goal of our life’s journey.” He left them with this advice, “Love Christ and love His Church.”
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