By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — The Rite of Election of Catechumens and the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates have been celebrated in the cathedrals of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, taking place in St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, on Feb. 15, and in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne on March 1.
Catechumens are those unbaptized individuals who will be entering the Catholic Church by receiving all the sacraments of initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil on the night of April 4.
Candidates are those who are already baptized and are now preparing to complete their initiation or enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The catechumens and candidates come from parishes throughout the diocese. During the liturgy, each catechumen and candidate, as well as his or her godparent or sponsor, was presented for recognition to Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
Altogether, several hundred catechumens and candidates — along with their godparents, sponsors, families and guests — attended the liturgies.
The catechumens inscribed their names within the “Book of the Elect,” which was presented for Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to sign in an event called the Enrollment of Names. After participating in the Rite of Election, the catechumens will be referred to as the “elect,” because they will have been officially declared ready to receive the Easter sacraments this year.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the wonder and gratitude he felt: “The wonder at the working’s of God’s grace that has led so many to the Catholic Church; gratitude for the gift of faith that you have received and opened yourselves to. I also feel joy — joy that you are becoming part of the family that is God’s Church, that you will soon be joining all of us, your brothers and sisters, at the Eucharistic table of the Lord.”
Speaking of the second reading from St. Peter: “Come to the Lord, a living stone, … let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” the bishop told the catechumens that when they are baptized, “you will be consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. You will join us in offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
“This means that you will be able to join in the offering of the Eucharist. Becoming part of the common priesthood, you will exercise that priesthood by receiving the sacraments, as well as by living lives of prayer, charity and holiness,” the bishop added.
“This is how all of us live our vocations,” he said, “by making an offering of our daily lives to the Lord. This is what St. Peter calls ‘the royal priesthood.’ You will participate in the mission of this priesthood of Jesus, bearing witness to Him in the world. As St. Peter writes: this is ‘so that you may announce the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’”
At the Rite of Election, the catechumens enter a period of purification and enlightenment.
“During these weeks before Easter, you prepare more intensely for your Christian initiation,” Bishop Rhoades said. “At the Easter Vigil, the Easter fire will be lit and from it the Easter candle will be lit. You will enter into dark churches in parishes throughout our diocese. And the light of the Easter candle will spread throughout the churches. The darkness reminds us of the state of the world and of the human family before the coming of Christ. The new fire and the candle symbolize the light coming into the world.”
“You and also the candidates here who have already been baptized, who will be entering into full communion in the Catholic Church — all of you have received the great gift brought by Jesus: the light of faith. It is this light that will illumine your lives,” Bishop Rhoades noted.
Bishop Rhoades also spoke about the sacrament of Confirmation the catechumens and candidates will receive.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and will dwell within you,” Bishop Rhoades said, “strengthening you along the journey of life, strengthening you with His gifts so that you will walk as children of the light, living your faith with conviction. Do not let your faith become lukewarm. The life of faith is a beautiful journey when we live it with conviction, intentionally, opening ourselves each day to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The life of faith is nourished by the great gift Jesus gave us on the night before He died: the sacrament of the Eucharist, His very Body and Blood.”
“The Eucharist is the precious nourishment for our faith,” Bishop Rhoades said.
The bishop also spoke about the covenant they would enter with the Lord.
The catechumens would be making promises to God before they are baptized. “You will renounce Satan and profess the faith of the Church, faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” the bishop said.
And candidates would renew those baptismal promises before they are confirmed.
“At Easter, you will become members of the people of the new covenant, the Catholic Church,” Bishop Rhoades said. “The law of this new covenant is the new commandment to love as Christ has loved us. Our destiny as God’s holy people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, is the Kingdom of God.”
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