Categories: Regional Date: Feb 26, 2012 Title: Hundreds gather for Rite of Election
Story and photos by Peggy Weber
SPRINGFIELD -- About 600 people gathered at St. Michael's Cathedral, here, for the annual Rite of Election, one of the final steps of the journey for those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).
Msgr. Christopher D. Connelly, vicar general for the Diocese of Springfield and rector of the St. Michael's Cathedral, welcomed the catechumens and candidates to the downtown church for the special ceremony, today. About 120 candidates, those preparing for First Eucharist or Confirmation, filled the pews from a multitude of parishes. They were joined by about 35 catechumens who will be baptized at the East Vigil in their home parishes on April 7.
Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell usually presides over this annual celebration but was at St. John's Seminary in Brighton for a special liturgy for the seminarians. Msgr. Connelly began the hour-long service by noting, "Thre is no need to worry or be anxious about this ceremony. We know you have never done this before. What you don't know is that I have never done this before."
He described the celebration as "among the most inspiring events that takes place here" and said it was "A blessing and a grace for all of us."
Those who are going to be baptized are asked to sign a book which enrolls them as part of the Elect.
Lenore Gallo, 24, traveled from the Berkshires to participate in the Rite of Election. She came with her pastor, Father C.J. Waitekus of St. Ann Parish in Lenox.
She said, "I started to go to Mass when I was 16 because my parents started going through a divorce. And I found it very calming and it gave me the structure and stability. And the community was very kind to me and they helped me through it."
She said her life got busy and now that she is getting married this summer the time seemed right to go through the RCIA process.
"It just felt like it was time. I ahd made the decision years ago but never done the formal process," she said.
She said she has learned much from her classes. "I'm getting a lot of information that I was aware of before and I'm learning some extra things along the way from the readings. I find a lot of it helpful and comforting."
Stephanie and Matthew Caron were all smiles as they participated in the Rite of Election.
Stephanie, 26, and their 19-month-old son, Joseph, will be baptized at the Easter Vigil at St. Rose de Lima Parish in Chicopee.
"I was pregnant with my son and that kind of inspired us to go back to church," she said.
"And when we moved back (from Florida) we went to a few Catholic churches and as soon as we walked into St. Rose we knew it. It was almost like something ws telling us to go there. You could say the Holy Spirit was guiding us to go there," she said.
She said that she is happy it will be a family affair at the Easter Vigil, especially since their son inspired them to make their faith journey.
Matt, 27, was born and raised Catholic. "When we moved away I kind of got away from it, unfortunately. I was a St. Petersburgh cop and saw some awful things. So it was like Stephanie said that the Holy Spirit was kind of guiding you to want to go back. It was just that little voice inside," he said.
Sister of St. Joseph Paula Robillard, director of faith formation for the Diocese of Springfield, said, "I think the Rite of Election is probably one of the most exciting days fo the year."
She said this year's ceremony touched her as she looked out and saw a woman who was probably close to age 80 standing alongside a a child.
"I tell people all the time that our journey to God is a lifelong experience and they manifested that for me," she said.
She noted that personal invitation and contact are essential for evangelization and bringing more people into the church.
"Well you know the first goal of evangelization is to bring peole into contact with Jesus. And I think that if we believe that we are the personificaiton of God and that we carry Jesus with us wherever we go then that personal contat really makes a difference," she said.