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Bishop Fisher Catholic Life Features

Rite of Election sees family join the Church

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Catechumens gather in the sanctuary of St. Joseph Cathedral during the Rite of Election. The rite is the culmination of study and prayer that brings people into the Catholic Church. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Cathedral

On Sunday, the Winters family completed an important step in their journey, both physical and spiritual, to join the Catholic Church. In town just six months, their three young children took part in the Rite of Election, one of the formal steps towards becoming a member of the Catholic faith. 

For mother Julie, the journey came full circle. She grew up attending St. Cecilia Parish in Sheldon, now part of St. John Neumann Parish. While in South Dakota studying archeology, she met her future husband, Tennessee native Daniel Winters, a Baptist. They returned to Tennessee to have their three children. Then Covid devastated their lives.  

Bishop Michael Fisher writes the name of catechumen Aaren Arnold into the Book of the Elect on Feb. 21. Arnold, seen here with sponsor Morgan LeVea, was one of dozens of people who joined the elect during the Lenten service.

“Covid hit hard in Tennessee,” said Daniel. “I lost my job, I lost everything. So, we came up here.”

The family of five moved in with Julie’s parents and started to attend Julie’s childhood church.

“I like it a lot. There’s a lot of love here. I really appreciate all this. I don’t know how to put it into words, but I really enjoy it,” Daniel said. “I like the structure that this Church has. I really enjoy it a lot. It’s like a family.”

The path to becoming Catholic involves a process of inquiry, reflection, and catechetical instruction, including spiritual and sacramental preparation.  This process is called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which culminates in receiving the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist) at the Easter Vigil.

“We’ve been going every Sunday night to RCIA classes and reading since September (at St. John’s). We feel a lot of love there,” said Julie.

In the six months since coming to Western New York, Daniel has found a job working customer service from home, and has graduated from the New York Institute of Photography.

 “God is just opening up all the doors right now,” he said. “That why I said there is so much structure and stability that is affecting our family right now. We’re having a hope that we never had before. It’s really kind of amazing.”

The Winters children – Lois, Lillian and Douglas – were among the dozens of catechumens and candidates formally recognized and welcomed by the Church at St. Joseph Cathedral on Feb. 21.

“As we welcome our brothers and sisters into our family, as we prepare for the Easter celebration, we recognize that they have been on a journey, a journey with God who has been speaking to their hearts, to their souls, and has been moving them to this time. Maybe some of you were brought up in a different faith. Maybe you were brought up with no faith at all. But God in His love and His care for you, has brought you to this time,” said Bishop Michael Fisher, who celebrated the Rite of Election.

The rite coincides with the first Sunday of Lent as the Church enters into a period of repentance and purification. The Rite of Election marks the beginning of intense preparation for the catechumens, now called “elect.” Based on the testimony of sponsors and catechists and the catechumens’ affirmation of their intention to join the Church, the Church makes its “election” or acceptance of these catechumens to receive the sacraments of initiation. This step is also called the Enrollment of Names, as the catechumens inscribe their names in the Book of Elect as a pledge of fidelity.

This year, the event looked a little different from what typically takes place. Instead of writing his or her name into the Book of the Elect, each person walked to a microphone and announced themselves, with the bishop writing their name in the Book. Accompanied by their godparent, they then stepped into the sanctuary for the Act of Admission, which is the formal recognition by the Bishop declaring them a member of the elect, to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. 

Candidates, those who have been baptized in another Christian denomination, were also present, as they stood in the pews with their sponsors to be recognized by the Bishop. Bishop Fisher formally recognized their desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s Eucharistic table. During Lent, all parishes intentionally pray for candidates and elect as they prepare to enter the Church at the Easter Vigil. At that Mass, the candidates will profess their faith with the community before receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist with the newly baptized.

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