Over 600 prepare to enter Church at Rite of Election

BOSTON -- More than 600 catechumens and candidates took one of their final steps towards receiving Easter sacraments by participating in the Rite of Election Feb. 21 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

“I feel like I’m with everyone now,” said Huy Nguyen, 17, a catechumen from St. Patrick Parish in Stoneham. “I feel I’m on a path to salvation.”

Customarily, the Rite of Election is celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent, which this year was Feb. 21. In Boston, ceremonies were held at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. that day. The first ceremony included the Central and Merrimack regions and the second ceremony included those from the North, South, and West regions of the archdiocese.

Boston’s catechumens and candidates joined thousands from around the world who also took the same step towards the sacraments by affirming their desire to receive sacraments of initiation to their respective bishops that day.

During the ceremonies, catechumens affirmed their desire to Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist; while the candidates expressed their desire to complete their Christian initiation and be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.

After a Liturgy of the Word, Cardinal O’Malley called forward the catechumens and their godparents. He questioned the godparents as to the catechumens’ readiness to become Catholic. Then, he asked the catechumens if they are ready to enter fully into the life of the Church. They responded in the affirmative and then were asked to sign their names in the Book of the Elect.

While the catechumens signed their names, the congregation sang “Amazing Grace” and “The Church of Christ.”

After the cardinal declared them members of the elect, catechumens sang “Praise the Lord for He is Glorious,” a song sung to the tune of “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.”

Cardinal O’Malley then asked the candidates to come forward and questioned them on how they have deepened their appreciation of their baptismal call, reflected on the Church’s tradition, and deepened their service to others.

After the cardinal said the Church recognizes their desire to receive other sacraments of initiation, the candidates sang “Praise the Lord for He is Glorious.”

“It’s a very holy experience,” said Lisa Ratte, a candidate at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Westford, of participating in the Rite of Election.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley spoke of the significance of the ceremony, reminding candidates and catechumens that they are called to be followers of Christ.

“The Rite of Election has nothing to do with voting or dimpled or hanging chads,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “It’s a ceremony of those who are chosen: the Elect. The Elect are called upon to inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect. Jesus says, ‘I have chosen you.’”

He encouraged candidates and catechumens to remain faithful to their calling by witnessing to their faith and remaining faithful to the Gospel.

“There are many outside the Church who seek to define who we are and what we believe. It is important for us to learn the teachings of the Church and how to live that faith, to love God over all, and love our neighbor as ourselves,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

“In the past, many people have attacked the Church for what we believe about God and the Trinity. Today, many are objecting about what the Church teaches about human persons, the Gospel of Life, and our dignity as made in the image and likeness of God.”

“A deep understanding of the Church’s belief is an important part of discipleship,” he said. “The disciple is always learning.”

He welcomed catechumens and candidates on behalf of the entire Catholic community.

During the homily, Cardinal O’Malley also reminded the congregation of the significance of Lent, noting that it is a time to focus on one’s Catholic discipleship.

“Lent is about forgiveness won for us by Jesus on the cross,” he said. “Lent is about a second chance, a new beginning.”

Following the ceremony, members of this year’s Elect reflected on their conversions.

“It’s been a fun journey,” said Clay LaForte, a catechumen of Immaculate Conception Parish in Newburyport. “I’ve bonded a little more with some people in the community.”

Ratte remarked on what she learned through the RCIA program.

“As you progress over the weeks, you get to know people more and the knowledge becomes deeper,” she said. “It’s like back to basics, but it’s so powerful.”

Ratte, baptized Episcopalian and whose husband is Catholic, is becoming Catholic because she is drawn to the community in the Church.

“It suits me,” she said. “The most important thing to me is raising children in a faith where they can walk with Jesus throughout their lives.”

For LaForte, whose wife and four children are Catholic, the redemptive qualities of the Catholic faith drew him to the Church.

“It puts me at ease with where my life is now and where I’m going from here,” he said. “I’ve been going to the Church for years with my wife and my family. It’s time to make it official and become a Catholic.”