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SOUTH END -- Six-year-old Nyahra Cardoso, a new catechumen from the Brockton Tri-Parish community was excited. She had just participated in the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, March 5, taking an important step to fully becoming Catholic.
"I'm a part of God's family now and I'm one of God's friends," said a beaming Cardoso following the ceremony.
A total of 459 catechumens and candidates gathered at the cathedral, which, in order to accommodate the large number of people, saw two celebrations presided over by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, one at 1:30 p.m. and one at 4:30 p.m.
During each celebration, catechumens, those who have never been baptized, participated in the Rite of Election, while candidates, those who are Christian but not Catholic, participated in the Call to Continuing Conversion.
Cardinal O'Malley began his homily by welcoming the catechumens and candidates, and thanking their sponsors and godparents, as well as the priests, deacons, religious, and RCIA coordinators that lent their support to the prospective new Catholics.
"Your presence here today is a sign of hope and joy for all of us," he said.
Today is a day "when we unite as God's people in facing the challenges of being a Catholic Christian in this day and age," the cardinal said, adding that facing those challenges is "never easy."
Still, he noted that throughout the world, "people are gathering for this Rite of Election," with about 100,000 new Catholics entering the Church in the United States alone.
"We joyfully welcome you and express our gratitude that you're joining our spiritual family. Your presence enriches our lives and our Church with your own spiritual gifts and talents and faith," he said to the catechumens and candidates.
He continued by referencing several figures in Catholic history who had originally come from other faiths, including St. Elizabeth Seton, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Cardinal John Henry Newman.
"When people make this step (into the Catholic Church), they do it with such seriousness, and we are the beneficiaries of your embracing the faith," said Cardinal O'Malley.
During the ceremonies, catechumens affirmed their desire 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 the 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 before asking the catechumens if they are ready to enter fully into the life of the Church.
Responding in the affirmative, the catechumens were then asked to sign their names in the Book of the Elect. They were then declared members of the elect by the cardinal, and he asked of the godparents to continue their "loving care and example."
Cardinal O'Malley then asked the candidates to come forward and questioned them on how they have deepened their appreciation of their baptismal call, deepened their service to others, and reflected on the Church's tradition.
The cardinal recognized their desire to be part of the Catholic Church, and called on the sponsors to continue their support "with your guidance and concern."
Speaking to The Pilot following the ceremonies, candidate Ray Bardsley said this was his second time coming to the cathedral in a year.
His grandchildren, twins, had participated in the ceremonies last year, and their doing so had inspired Bardsley to do the same.
"I've been looking forward to this for a year," said Bardsley, who is from the Holy Redeemer and Immaculate Conception Collaborative of Merrimac, West Newbury and Newburyport.
"I'm 70 years old, so (I'm) little late coming to the game, but I'll do what I can for the Church. I'm really excited about it," he said.
Candidate Duschia Bodet has been exposed to the Catholic faith through her husband, but it was her job that became the deciding factor in her decision to join the Catholic faith.
"I'm a Catholic school teacher, so I teach religion, and the more I teach it the more meaningful it is to me every year," said Bodet, who teaches at Lawrence Catholic Academy.
"I felt like I wanted to be fully in the Catholic Church," she continued.