500 participate in Rite of Election

BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley officiated as more than 500 catechumens and candidates, in two afternoon ceremonies, gathered Feb. 25 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for the Rite of Election.

The rites performed in Boston were similar to ceremonies in 200 cathedrals across the country on the first Sunday of Lent, Cardinal O’Malley said in his homily.

“In the United States, 150,000 adults are participating in this process--a source of pride and joy to all of us,” he said.

“The Rite of Election has nothing to do with voting. There are no dimpled or hanging chads,” he said. “The Lord has called you by name and that is why we are here today.”

The Rite of Election, a component of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), is one of the final steps towards becoming a full, participating member of the Catholic Church. Catechumens -- those never baptized -- and candidates -- those previously baptized in other Christian religions -- will receive the sacraments of initiation and be welcomed into the Church at this year’s Easter Vigil.

Because of the large number of participants, the rite for those from parishes in the Central and Merrimack regions of the archdiocese was held at 1 p.m. while the rite for those from the West, North and South regions was held at 4 p.m.

When, during the 4 p.m. rite, the catechumens were invited before the cardinal, they stood four rows deep, to affirm their commitment to the journey ahead. First, the cardinal asked the godparents if the catechumens were sufficiently prepared.

To the congregants, the cardinal asked: “Are you ready to support the testimony expressed about these catechumens and include them in your prayer and affection as we move towards Easter?”

Then, he addressed the catechumens: “Do you wish to enter fully into the life of the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist?”

“We do,” they replied.

“Then offer your names for enrollment,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

The Books of the Elect were set up on two long tables perpendicular to the altar. From both sides the catechumens signed their names, some quickly, others lingering.

Describing his experience of signing the book, catechumen Gaurav Rohatgi of St. Mary Church in Franklin said, “It was very peaceful, which surprised me.”

“I felt called,” he added.

Rohatgi said he was joined by his wife Tara, and children, Matthew, 2, and Meghan, 5.

He began the process of entering the Church after his mother gave him the book “The Life of Pi,” he said. “The book about another Hindi boy, who follows Christ, spoke to me.”

“It was beautiful,” said Lesley Liu-Bujalski, a catechumen from Immaculate Conception Church in Weymouth, about signing the Book of the Elect. She was sponsored by her husband, Robert Bujalski.

Liu-Bujalski said she began the RCIA program two years ago, but had stopped.

“The first time I wasn’t sure. We were living together and to be honest, we were not living very ‘Catholicly,’” she said.

The couple was married in August and she began the process again, she said. “This time without the hypocrisy.”

Following the catechumens, the candidates and their godparents were invited before the cardinal for the celebration of the call to continuing conversion.

With their hands upon the shoulders of the candidates, the godparents affirmed to the cardinal that the candidates were faithful to the instructions of the apostles, an appreciation of their baptism, the traditions of the Church and a life of love and service to others.

Again, the cardinal admonished the congregants to support the candidates in entering into full communion with the Church.

Then, he said to the candidates, “Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”

In reply, the candidates sang, “Praise the Lord, For He is Glorious.”

Attending the 4 p.m. rite with those from his region, South Regional Bishop John A. Dooher, said he was impressed by the excitement and the crowds of people.

“I think it was Chesterfield who said: ‘Here come the Catholics. Here comes everybody.’”

The event was an opportunity to see tons of people from every ethnicity, he said. “It gives a real picture of the true Church.”