Celebration welcomes
newcomers to the faith

Catechumens, who have never been baptized, were presented to Archbishop Kurtz during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremonies March 6 at St. Peter the Apostle Church. After the catechumens were presented, the archbishop asked godparents about their readiness for enrollment among the elect. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

According to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, you can have secondhand clothes “but you can’t have secondhand faith.”

As he presided at this year’s Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, he preached to more than 300 people preparing to join the church as catechumens — people who have never been baptized — and candidates — people who were baptized in another Christian tradition.

At or around Easter, 163 catechumens will receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, Eucharist and confirmation. One hundred fifty-three candidates will receive Eucharist and confirmation because the Catholic Church recognizes their baptism.

The celebration wasn’t a Mass, as catechumens and candidates aren’t yet able to receive Holy Communion, but Scripture was read in both English and Spanish.

The Gospel reading from the Book of John spoke of God telling his people, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Archbishop Kurtz explained that he stays connected to the vine that is God by attending Mass.

“A branch doesn’t have to worry as long as it’s connected to the vine,” he said. “I stay connected to the vine by going to Mass. And actually, I go to Mass every day. You may say, ‘Well archbishop, you’re a fanatic!’ But it’s how I stay connected to Christ.”

RCIA coordinators from 40 parishes held their parishes’ Books of the Elect during the Rite of Election March 6 at St. Peter the Apostle Church. The names of catechumens are formally enrolled in the books at their parishes. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

Preaching to the catechumens and candidates on the first Sunday of Lent, he told them, “The season of Lent is your time to come closer to Christ. The more we love Christ, the more we will love others in our life. … Seek to love Christ and it will bring out the best in you.”

He called upon his listeners to think about and pray for the person who invited them to join the church.

“Think also about the courage you had to have to say yes,” he said. “There’s someone in your life who you will bring to Jesus. Let’s ask that the Holy Spirit calm us and prepare us to be received.”

Beth Vetter, a member of the catechumenate team from Epiphany Church, believes in sharing her faith and has been doing so regularly for the past eight years.

She became involved with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults — the process of preparing candidates and catechumens for the sacraments — in order to share her faith with others. This year, Epiphany has six catechumens and three candidates joining the church.

“I believe everyone has the need and right to hear others’ experience,” she said. “Our faith is what grounds us and sends us forth, so I wanted to be able to share that.”

Vetter is glad RCIA classes are able to meet in person again after holding them virtually during the height of the pandemic.

“It was tough doing Zoom,” she said. “We really appreciated when we came back together in person.”

She wants people who are interested in joining the church to pursue that calling — even if it seems daunting.

“Don’t let RCIA scare you,” Vetter said, noting that many people express concern with how difficult the process appears to be. “It is a process, but yet it is a personal conversion.”

Kayla Bennett
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Kayla Bennett
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