Rite of Election welcomes adults seeking initiation into church

GREEN BAY — More than 100 men and women from around the Diocese of Green Bay, preparing for initiation into the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil, attended the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion March 17 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

The annual service, traditionally held on the first Sunday of Lent, brings catechumens (people who have never been baptized) and candidates (baptized Christians who have not received first Communion or confirmation) together to publicly express their desire to enter into the life of the church. The Rite of Election is part of the church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program.

With his 22-month-old son, Benjamin, looking on, Rob Saley, adult faith formation director at St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Oshkosh, introduces the catechumens from his parish to Bishop David Ricken March 17 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

According to parish RCIA leaders, the service shows the catechumens and candidates that they are being welcomed into a community much larger than their hometown parish. Due to inclement weather March 10, the Rite of Election took place on the second Sunday of Lent this year.

After greeting the candidates, catechumens, godparents and parish RCIA leaders, Bishop David Ricken said in his homily that the Rite of Election is his opportunity to welcome them in the final steps of their journey.

“Today, in the Rite of Election, representing Christ and the church, I elect you, I choose you, to now deepen your walk during this Lenten retreat,” Bishop Ricken told the 41 catechumens and 64 candidates from 39 parishes and UW-Green Bay Catholic Campus Ministry. He reminded the group that this spiritual journey is a “tremendous gift the church is giving to you. … The whole church is praying for you during the Lenten season.”

Bishop Ricken explained that after the Easter Vigil, the newly initiated will enter a period of formation called “mystagogy,” where they learn to fully participate in the sacramental mysteries of the church.

“It’s also a time to learn more about the spiritual life of the church, all the ways to pray and about some of the spiritual movements,” said Bishop Ricken. “It’s a way to appreciate the spirituality of the Mass by knowing the parts of the Mass and starting to pray the Mass. Not just going through the motions of the Mass.”

In this respect, Bishop Ricken said the newly initiated — then called neophytes — will be on the same journey as all Catholics in the diocese.

Nadine Duncan, director of liturgy at St. Bernard Parish in Appleton, places the Book of Elect on a table after announcing the name of her parish’s catechumen, Maiong Chang, during the Rite of Election held March 17 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“Our Disciples on the Way is an effort (for all Catholics) to be re-energized by almost the same process as the (RCIA),” he said. “Now that might be a sign to you that, ‘Just because I receive the sacraments doesn’t mean that I’m one and done.’ It means you’re just beginning to live out a life of Christ and his body, the church. And so this is definitely a journey.”

Bishop Ricken acknowledged the dedication of catechumens and candidates who are preparing for the sacraments of initiation.

“All of you are a gift from God,” he said. “The fact that you are taking this step is a gift from God to you and to your family, to your parish and to the diocese. … With all of the distractions in the world that keep us off focus and not even understanding what is the purpose and mission of our life, the fact that you heard the call is a miracle indeed and I thank God that you have and that you are taking this invitation seriously.”

Following his homily, Bishop Ricken called parish RCIA leaders forward for the presentation of catechumens. They took turns introducing their catechumens, whose names were listed in the parish’s Book of Elect. The catechumens and their godparents then stood and responded to questions posed by Bishop Ricken. “Do you wish to enter fully into the life of the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist,” the bishop asked catechumens.

Presentation of the candidates followed, with similar questions and responses.

“These elect and candidates, whom we bring with us to the Easter sacraments, will look to us for an example of Christian renewal,” Bishop Ricken said during a prayer intercession for the group. “Let us pray to the Lord for them and for ourselves, that we may be renewed by one another’s efforts and together come to share the joys of Easter.”

Following the service, the elect, candidates, godparents and parish leaders posed for group photos with Bishop Ricken.

VIEW MORE PHOTOS: See additional photos from the Rite of Election on our Flickr page.