February 29, 2024 // Bishop

We Have a ‘God Who Chooses,’ Bishop Says at Rite of Election

“For the sake of Jacob, my servant, and Israel, my elect, I have called you by your name. I have taken you up though you have known me not.”

– Isaiah 45:4

On a sunny but chilly Sunday afternoon in February – the First Sunday of Lent, February 18 – the pews of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne are full, as sponsors, catechumens, and candidates for full communion with the Catholic Church are gathered for the annual Rite of Election. Representatives from the various parishes in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area converge here at what Bishop Rhoades hails as the Mother Church of our diocese, where catechumens and candidates are presented to the bishop after a long season of prayer, meditation, and discernment.

The Rite of Election is an event that dates back to the
early Church, where those joining the Church – catechumens (those yet to be baptized) and candidates (those baptized into other Christian traditions but on a
path of conversion to Catholicism) – begin their final journey into full communion with the Catholic faith are welcomed and presented before the bishop.

Photos by Joe Romie
The annual Rite of Election was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on Sunday, February 18, with Bishop Rhoades presiding.

The theme of the elect is prominent across the Scriptures, as throughout history God has called individuals to live in communion with Him and to bring that communion to the world.

In his homily, Bishop Rhoades gave several examples of God choosing places to be uniquely his own, such as Mount Zion and the Temple in Jerusalem.

“Of all the mountains in the world, God chose Mount Zion as His mountain, and of all the holy places around the world, God chose the Temple in Jerusalem as His special and unique dwelling place.” Bishop Rhoades highlighted God’s call to his Chosen People, His elect, not only the Israelites as a whole but certain individuals whom God called to bring light and justice to a world in darkness.

“God not only chose the people of Israel to be His people, but He also chose or elected particular individuals for special favor which He didn’t give to others.”

Bishop Rhoades brought up the question of God showing partiality and, to a certain extent, exclusion. How can a God who loves all of humanity be exclusive in His selections, showing favor of one group over another, one person over another? Bishop Rhoades offered an explanation.

“In a culture which so highly values equality and inclusion, how can we believe in a God who appears to show favoritism or to be exclusionary? There’s clearly a tension here. How do we resolve the tension? How is it that God elected one particular people to be His Chosen People, the Israelites? Didn’t He thereby exclude the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Greeks? Why did He choose certain individuals over others to lead and guide His people? To answer these questions and to resolve this tension, it is important to understand election in the biblical sense,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “First of all, God didn’t choose people because they earned it or because of their particular gifts. He didn’t choose Israel because it was a great nation. In fact, Israel was the smallest of nations. He didn’t choose Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, Moses, or David, or Solomon, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah for their greatness. In fact, the Bible emphasizes their weakness, their inefficiencies.”

Bishop Rhoades reminded those in attendance that God calls people to Himself specifically for the purposes of calling for the conversion from sin, or for leadership in guiding His people out of darkness and into the light of His presence.

“The God revealed in the Bible is an electing God, a God who chooses. He chose David, not Saul. He chose Abraham to be the father of His people. He chose Moses to be the liberator of His people when they were enslaved in Egypt. And He called and chose prophets to guide His chosen people.”

Among the catechumens and candidates were students from the University of Saint Francis: Catechumen Quin’Shawn Gordon, and Candidate Collin Siratei.

“I felt called by God,” Gordon told Today’s Catholic of his conversion experience. “It felt like a natural choice; it didn’t feel like anybody was forcing or asking me to. It just felt … like a natural decision to come to.”

“It feels crazy in a good way,” he said simply, looking off for a moment, seeming to collect his thoughts on his experience. “It’s an amazing feeling, honestly.”

For Siratei, as a candidate, the feelings were similar.

“It was about this time last year, about the first day of the semester, when I felt the Lord calling me to His Church,” Siratei said. “I didn’t want to go back to my original church. I was non-denominational.”

Siratei elaborated on how he felt the Lord speaking to him. “Well, you pass the church every single day,” Siratei said about the on-campus St. Francis Chapel. “So I started going to daily Masses. … I continued to like the community, to like the people and how they did things, and I finally made the decision that I would become Catholic,” he added. “I’m feeling overwhelmed, euphoric almost. I’m feeling, like, forever happy and that this was the right decision. I felt this is just what God would want me to do.”

During his homily, Bishop Rhoades explained to everyone present what it means when one makes a heartfelt decision to become Catholic.

“When you are baptized and confirmed, you will be given a mission. Candidates for full communion, in the Sacrament of Confirmation, you, along with our catechumens, will be sealed with Holy Spirit and strengthened for the mission you received at baptism. The Sacrament of Confirmation will unite all of you more firmly to Christ and strengthen you for the mission to spread and defend the faith by your words and actions as true witnesses of Christ.”

In closing, Bishop Rhoades wished them well on their Lenten journey to the Easter Vigil, where they will come into full communion with the Church.

“What a joy it is for me – and our whole diocese – as you, catechumens and candidates, begin your final preparation for the Easter sacraments,” Bishop Rhoades stated. “That joy will be even greater at the Easter Vigil. May you prepare well during this period of purification and enlightenment! We pledge our prayers for you during this holy season of Lent. And we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of our diocese, also to pray for you. May she, the chosen daughter of Israel, elected by God to be the mother of His Son, our Savior, watch over you who have been chosen to be disciples of her Son, and may you experience always her maternal love!”

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