More to know about becoming Catholic

Each year at the Easter Vigil, thousands of people who go through the Rite of Christian Initiation are welcomed into the Catholic Church in the United States. This year, on Feb. 18 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, 49 candidates and 19 catechumens from across the Diocese of St. Cloud celebrated the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion, a step in their preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation.

The Rite of Election always occurs on the First Sunday of Lent,” explained Dominican Sister Jeanne Wiest, diocesan director of worship. “It is the gateway to the Period of Purification and Enlightenment for those catechumens awaiting the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. In the name of the Church and based on the testimony of godparents and catechists, the bishop makes the ‘election,’ that is, he chooses and admits the new elect, formerly catechumens, to the initiation sacraments at the Easter Vigil.

“The Rite of Election is a significant step in the journey of those seeking to become a member of the Catholic Church and one in which the whole Church partakes, from the bishop to the catechists, godparents, pastors, family and friends and the elect, praying with and for one another throughout the Lenten season and ultimately to the joy of Easter,” Sister Jeanne concluded.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the days of Lent are “a period of preparation marked by prayer, study and spiritual direction for the elect, and prayers for them by the parish communities. 

“As a newly initiated Catholic, they continue their formation and education continues in the Period of the Post-Baptismal Catechesis, which is also called mystagogy. This period continues at least until Pentecost. During the period the newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition, they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church’s mission and outreach activities.

“Coming into full communion with the Catholic Church describes the process for entrance into the Catholic Church for [those] already baptized Christians. In most cases, these individuals make a profession of faith but are not baptized again. To prepare for this reception, the people, who are called candidates, usually participate in a formation program to help them understand and experience the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Although some preparation may be with catechumens preparing for baptism, the preparation for candidates is different since they have already been baptized and committed to Jesus Christ, and many have also been active members of other Christian communities. The candidates may be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil or at another Sunday during the year depending on pastoral circumstances and readiness of the candidate.”

Christine Pinto, diocesan associate director for faith formation, explained that the role of community throughout this process is essential. 

“If we think about ourselves and how we grew in our faith, we know that it was people around us, the community, who were witnesses for us, forming us through their words and actions, leading us to a deeper understanding of faith. The community in which we live forms our value system. The Catholic community is called to share the teachings of Jesus by being disciples on the journey with one another. No one learns faith in a vacuum, we learn it through the faithful encounters we have with others: seeing others serve teaches us to be of service. Watching people pray and participating in prayer forms us as a people of prayer. We become evangelizers only after first being evangelized.”

The Diocese of St. Cloud has seen a rise in the number of Hispanic/Latino candidates and catechumens coming forward for full initiation in recent years. According to Mayuli Bales, diocesan director of multicultural ministries, those seeking full communion in the Catholic Church have a desire to learn more about the Catholic faith and feel a need for a place of love and belonging. The growing number of Spanish-speaking lay ecclesial ministry has created more opportunities for dialogue, education and invitation to discern. 

“[Lay ecclesial ministers] are the face of God,” Bales said. “We have six ordained Hispanic/Latino deacons that support priests in RCIA ministry. Emmaus Institute is forming more catechists. The apostolic movement called Koinonia is another seed that encourages people to receive the sacraments. The invitation of the faithful community through prayer groups, eucharistic adoration and Mass helps them see the love of God and is conveyed in the language that the Latino community understands.

“The Holy Spirit moves and works in our midst, even in the hardest times,” she continued. “The center of faith is love and it brings more people to God. People want a closer bond with other Catholics. RCIA in Spanish helps the communities to take another step to that closer bond. RCIA has a beginning, a path and a destination.”

Graphic design by Barbara Simon-Johnson.

Feature photo courtesy of CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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