More than 450 people who are entering the Catholic Church this spring gathered for Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremonies held at the Cathedral of the Assumption Feb. 16 and at St. Patrick Church on Feb. 17.
The gatherings with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz are held annually to acknowledge the candidates and catechumens who have been preparing to enter the church, usually throughout the last year, through a program known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA.
This year, the Archdiocese of Louisville has 250 candidates — those who were baptized in another Christian tradition. Their baptisms will be recognized by the church and they will receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
There are 206 catechumens, those who have never been baptized. They will enter the church through the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.
Among those candidates and catechumens were 14 individuals from All Saints Church in Taylorsville, Ky. That’s a significant number for a church with about 190 registrations.
Marilena Wertz, the coordinator of RCIA at All Saints, believes the parish’s small size is part of its attraction to those exploring the Catholic faith.
“I hear over and over again, they say when they step into the parish that they feel like they are stepping into a family,” said Wertz. “This community, you want to be a part of it. They rejoice in their faith. You know you’re in the midst of the Holy Spirit when you’re with them.”
She noted that this year’s group of 14 is larger than the usual RCIA group, but said that most years the parish has about 9 or 10 people in RCIA.
And the parish is prepared for those numbers, she said. The RCIA team that helps to facilitate the formation process includes seven adults and two teenagers, including Wertz’s 16-year-old daughter Shelby and Lillian Hanik, a 14-year-old who entered the church through RCIA.
The adults on the team include Deacon Carl Fahringer, Pete Rendon, Carmen Rendon, Trish Smith, Annie Villanova and Roger Walters. Several formerly went through RCIA.
The young people on the team are a boon to the program, Wertz said, because parents often go through the process with their children.
“It helps to have team members their age,” Wertz said.
The Keller family is one of several families entering the church at All Saints this year. The family members are Kelly Keller and three children. Her husband Mike plans to enter the church but is still in the process of seeking an annulment, which must be completed before he receives the sacraments.
Kelly Keller said she’s been on a faith journey for some time and in recent years, the call to join the church became urgent, she said. She explained that she was raised as a Catholic early-on but her family didn’t regularly attend church.
“I believe the Holy Spirit has led me back to church and brought my family along with me,” she said, during an interview last week.
They visited a few churches and decided that All Saints was the right place for them, she said.
“I was looking for something where I could be a part of the community and not just go to church and go home, and not be a part of it,” she said. “I really feel a part of the (All Saints) community.”
Shannon Brooke Verastegui, a mother of three who is entering the church through All Saints, had an unusual beginning in the Catholic Church. Though a native of Kentucky, she spent a majority of her childhood in the Bronx, New York. One day, she said, at about age 9, “I felt like I needed to go to church. I left my mother a note and I went. I went every Sunday; no one else, just me.”
The church in New York City was a large parish, she said, and she went utterly unnoticed. No one ever enrolled her in religious education classes, so she never made any of her sacraments.
She and her husband, who is from Mexico, moved to Taylorsville about three years ago and were drawn to All Saints.
“When we went there, I fell in love with it,” she said.
Their three children attend religious education while she attends RCIA — a relief since child care was her first concern when she considered RCIA, she said.