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Hundreds prepare to enter Church with Rite of Election

By Mark Labbe
Posted: 2/19/2016

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Catechumens gather at the front of the cathedral for the Rite of the Election Feb. 14. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe

SOUTH END -- Marking one of their final steps towards entering the Church at Easter, 556 candidates and catechumens gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Feb. 14, for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.

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.

To accommodate the large number of candidates and catechumens, two ceremonies, divided by regions, were held at the cathedral. Those from the Central and Merrimack Regions attended the first ceremony at 1:30 p.m., while those from the West, North and South Regions attended a 4 p.m. ceremony.

In his homily, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley recalled that last year's ceremony was cancelled due to the record-breaking February snowfall, and gave a welcome to this year's candidates and catechumens.

"Today, it is a very special joy to be able to say welcome to our new brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church... There are about 150,000 of you who are participating in the Rite of Election today in our country," he said.

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 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 were asked to sign their names in the Book of the Elect.

While they 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."

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."

Following the ceremonies, candidates and catechumens spoke to The Pilot about their decision on enter the Catholic Church.

Janet Greenburg, a catechumen from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Dorchester, said that although she had been coming to Mass "for years," her mother's recent passing acted as a catalyst for her to want to fully become Catholic.

"(My mother) was very religious in the Episcopalian church -- we were raised Episcopalian and Jewish, and my parents said when you get older, you decide where you feel like where belong. And this just seemed right and a fit... I found my niche" Greenburg said.

She said the ceremony was "beautiful."

Visibly moved, Ann Shaughnessy, a candidate from Our Lady of the Assumption in Marshfield, said that her son was in the hospital again after being very sick the year before, and the Call to Continuing Conversion helped "comfort (her) in the crisis that is going on right now."

She said although she was married to a Catholic and her mother was Catholic, she wasn't raised "religious."

"I always felt like something was missing," she said.

Despite that, Shaughnessy raised her children in the Catholic Church and attended Mass for "many, many years." She noted "I just always felt that it's who I'm supposed to be."