Mar 9, 2014

More than 150 take important step toward full membership in church



Story and photos by David Martin

SPRINGFIELD – One hundred fifty six people from parishes around the Diocese of Springfield took an important step in their faith journey during the annual Rite of Election ceremony that took place March 9 at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral, here.

Participants in the diocese’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) told iobserve that they feel encouraged by the numbers of people who are undergoing a spiritual transformation by joining the Catholic Church.

Stephan Corbin a catechumen from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Belchertown, decided to become Catholic after experiencing his daughters' being baptized and attending church with his wife, who is Catholic.

Corbin compares his journey toward Catholicism to that of a book where each step along the way has been a chapter. He told iobserve that he considers today’s ceremony an important closing to a chapter that will lead to the end of the book; receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil.

“I started with very little knowledge of the faith and the RCIA program really strengthened that knowledge,” Corbin said. “It gave me the opportunity to sit down weekly, sometimes twice a week, with the other catechists to just open the Word and explain to me what it meant. It was just priceless really,” said Corbin.

Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell presided over the event. Nearly 500 people attended the bilingual ceremony that was presented in English and Spanish. Catechumens are those preparing to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. The day also hosted candidates, those who have already been baptized, but want to receive the other sacraments.

Several children were among both catechumens and candidates. The Celebration of Election, a key part of the ceremony, began as Bishop McDonnell called the catechumens, with their godparents, to the altar to sign their names in the Book of the Elect.

In his homily, Bishop McDonnell told those who were about to enroll their names and who are anticipating their baptism during the Easter Vigil, that they would be called the elect. He told the elect that the 40 days of Lent are meant to be a time of prayer, a time when they grow closer to Christ, a time of penance in which their self-examination leads to a radical rejection of sin. He also noted that Lent is a time of preparation for the moment of sacramental initiation when Christ takes a hold of their life forever.

“Lent is the time when God’s light shines upon you,” the bishop said. "This is the time when God’s word speaks in a very special way to you, his elect. May you hear and heed his word.”

Candidates were asked stand as the godparents placed a hand on their shoulder. They were blessed and recognized during the Call to Continuing Conversion. Judy Trickey, RCIA coordinator at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Belchertown, said that sponsors and godparents are significant reference points for the catechumens and candidates to look to. She said that these individuals have shown a great interest in their faith journey and want to support them through all aspects of it.

“A sponsor can be as involved as being available once a week to talk about faith issues,” Trickey said, “to teach them how to pray the rosary and to be present to the sessions they participate in.

“They are there as a representative of the church for all the various ceremonies that take place during the RCIA process,” said Trickey.

At the end of the ceremony, Sister of St. Joseph Paula Robillard, the director of faith formation for the diocese, thanked everyone for attending the ceremony. She also invited people to an RCIA Day of Reflection. The day-long retreat is to be held April 6 for catechumens, candidates, sponsors, adult confirmandi and RCIA members at Mary Mother of Hope Church in Springfield. Those interested may contact Sister Robillard for more information at (413) 452-0841.

More on this story will be provided on an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.