More than 200 attend Rite of Election

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | February 26, 2015

Catechumens, candidates prepare for initiation into church at Easter Vigil

DE PERE — Every year, parish leaders, who prepare new members for initiation into the Catholic Church, look forward to the first Sunday of Lent. In the Diocese of Green Bay, that is the day hundreds of people from across northeast Wisconsin gather to publicly declare their intentions to join the church at the Easter Vigil.

Known as the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, the service brings together catechumens (people who have never been baptized) and candidates (those who have already been baptized) from around the diocese who publicly express their desire to enter into the life of the church.

Bishop David Ricken shakes hands with Hadarah Maon during the Rite of Election at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in De Pere Feb. 22. Hadarah and her siblings, May, Judah and Lianah, will receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil while their mother, Sharon, will make a profession of faith. Also pictured is their father, Yochanan. The Maons are members of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Bishop David Ricken shakes hands with Hadarah Maon during the Rite of Election at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in De Pere Feb. 22. Hadarah and her siblings, May, Judah and Lianah, will receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil while their mother, Sharon, will make a profession of faith. Also pictured is their father, Yochanan. The Maons are members of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

This year’s Rite of Election was held at Our Lady of Lourdes Church Feb. 22. Most of the 74 catechumens and 148 candidates from across the diocese were in attendance. The ceremony is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), and according to parish RCIA leaders, it shows the catechumens and candidates that they are being welcomed into a community much larger than their hometown parish.

“When our people come here, they see that there are so many people undergoing everything that they are doing,” said Mary Krueger, pastoral leader at St. Patrick Parish in Menasha, who is in her 13th year as RCIA coordinator.

Krueger accompanied three adults to the Rite of Election. “We meet in that small group, but the church is so universal. They are all thrilled to meet the bishop. That’s important for them, too, to meet their shepherd.”

Joyce Cisler, who has been an RCIA leader at St. James Parish in Cooperstown for 10 years and coordinator for the first time this year, said the Rite of Election “is a visual rite of acceptance by the community” with Bishop David Ricken there to welcome them. “I think it’s a very powerful ceremony.”

After serving as a sponsor for her husband three years ago, Jessica Phillips is now RCIA coordinator at All Saints Parish, Denmark, Holy Trinity Mission in New Denmark and St. Mary Parish in Glenmore/Stark. She said the Rite of Election “gets (candidates and catechumens) excited for this next part of the journey, where they will travel to the Easter Vigil. They’ve started to look at what our Catholic faith holds for them and now it’s coming to a crescendo.”

Deacon William Burkel of Prince of Peace Parish in Bellevue has been leading RCIA groups for about 25 years. “I think the thing that this (Rite of Election) does for the candidates (is) they get to see that it’s not just our little group. They get to see the bigger church of Green Bay doing this and that we’re all in it together.” Prince of Peace has one adult catechumen, two child catechumens and three adult candidates this year, he said.

School Sister of Notre Dame Helen Plum, pastoral leader at St. Mary Parish in Peshtigo and St. Joseph and Edward Parish in Walsh, said the Rite of Election offers people “a sense of the bigness of the church. It shows they are coming into a much larger church than just the parish. Also, the excitement (that) it’s not only what I chose, but that the church is choosing me. The bishop is saying you’re ready and now we want to welcome you.”

The Rite of Election began with a procession of parish leaders carrying Books of the Elect into the church. Inside the books are names of people seeking initiation into the church. Prior to the liturgy, Bishop Ricken took time to sign his name to all of the Books of Elect.

After greeting the candidates, catechumens and guests, Bishop Ricken said in his homily that the Rite of Election is his opportunity to welcome them.

“The bishop officially chooses you and recognizes in you your ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ and to the church,” he said. “It also is a good reminder that your parish is not a center of all the life of the church. We are connected to the diocese, through the bishop and the other parishes.”

In addition, said Bishop Ricken, “We are connected to the universal church, whose head is Pope Francis, vicar of Christ, and who represents on earth the presence of Christ in a very special way.”

This universal connection to other believers can serve as an anchor of support, noted Bishop Ricken. “I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel very comforted that we are connected to all of our brothers and sisters throughout the world,” he said. “As you are called to enter more deeply into these 40 days of intense scrutiny, fasting and prayer (know that) you have the whole church behind you.”

Catechumens and candidates were called forward with their sponsors to present themselves to Bishop Ricken. During the lengthy ceremony, the bishop greeted and shook hands with each of the more than 200 catechumens and candidates in attendance. Afterward he offered a prayer: “Guide these chosen ones. Strengthen them on their journey and seal them with the Spirit of your promise.”

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