Feb 17, 2013

Soon-to-be Catholics are one step closer following annual Rite of Election



Story and photos by Terence Hegarty

SPRINGFIELD – Stepping into St. Michael’s Cathedral here the afternoon of Feb. 17 was a big step for the nearly 150 from across the Diocese of Springfield who are seeking to join the Catholic Church.

The Annual Rite of Election was held at 2 p.m. and hosted catechumens and candidates from throughout the diocese. More than 300 gathered for the hour long ceremony, including sponsors, Godparents and family members of those seeking to make their sacraments.

Sister of St. Joseph Paula Robillard told iobserve that the catechumens and candidates “came to celebrate this step in their journey toward full communion in the church.”

Candidates are those who have been baptized in a Christian faith and who will receive the rest of their sacraments (First Communion and confirmation) at the Easter Vigil. Catechumens are those who have yet to be baptized and will receive all three sacraments at the Easter Vigil in their respective parish.

The Rite of Election is celebrated in parishes around the world at the start of Lent each year. Candidates and catechumens worldwide are enrolled in some form of religious education that will culminate with the Easter celebration.

“It always makes me happy to be here at the Rite of Election because we see all of these people who see the Catholic Church as a place where they can find God,” said Sister Robillard, who serves as director of Faith Formation for the diocese.

Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell was the principal celebrant. A key part of the ceremony is when catechumens are called forward and asked to sign their names in the Book of the Elect.

Bishop McDonnell, during his homily, spoke to the meaning of the ritual. “It means that God is calling them (catechumens) to the Catholic Church. He’s choosing them, selecting them, electing them,” the bishop told the crowd. “In baptism He will covenant with them.” After signing their names, the catechumens will now be known as the elect.

Candidates were called before the altar and were accompanied by their sponsors. Each sponsor placed their hand on the shoulder of each candidate as they were formally recognized by the bishop and the entire congregation.

“I feel very blessed to be here today,” said Freddy Diaz, a candidate who resides in Springfield and is a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament and All Souls Parish in Springfield. Diaz, a 17-year-old, was unable to make his confirmation with the rest of his class last year because of work and school demands. “Since I have more time now, I want to dedicate myself as much as I can to God and become a better person.”

Diaz said that his father is his role model and that he has inspired him to be active in the Catholic faith. “I look up to my dad, he’s a hard worker, he strives to be a better person and that’s how I want to be.” Diaz had to participate in the Rite of Election without his father looking on, however. He said that his father was unable to attend the service. “I want to make him proud and I’m very happy to (be making) my confirmation.”

Diaz is looking forward to the Easter vigil, but he’s not rushing it. “I still have a lot of classes to learn about my confirmation and connect more with God.”

A video version of this story will be featured on the Feb. 23 edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.