An impressive number of people have taken a big step in their journey to become Catholic. Over 70 catechumens and candidates entered St. Joseph Cathedral on Feb. 26, the first Sunday of Lent, to be welcomed into the Catholic faith.
Father Sean Paul Fleming, director of the Office of Worship and rector of St. Joseph Cathedral, greeted them.
“We are delighted that you want to be part of the Catholic Church, that you want to seek full communion with our faith, to deepen your relationship with God. That is what today is all about – to start that intense final preparation for you, your families and parishes, and for all who support you,” he said.
Catechumens are people who seek to join the Catholic Church, but have never been baptized. Those who have been baptized in a Christian denomination, but wish to be in full communion with the Church, are known as candidates.
“Faith is a gift. The sacraments are a gift. The Holy Spirit is called the best gift of God ever. And it is God who has chosen us to receive these gifts,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher in his homily for the liturgy.
As the catechumens stood, Bishop Fisher asked their sponsors, “Have they faithfully listened to God’s word proclaimed by the Church?” “Have they responded to that word and begun to walk in God’s presence?” “Have they shared the company of their Christian brothers and sisters and joined with them in prayer?”
The sponsors replied that they have.
Once they confirmed that they wish to enter fully into the life of the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist, their names were added into the Book of the Elect. Typically, Catechumens write their own names in the Book of the Elect. Due to Covid, Bishop Fisher entered the names himself.
“I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter vigil,” Bishop Fisher told the congregation.
After affirming that the candidates have listened to the apostles’ instructions, have come to a deeper appreciation of their baptism, and have reflected sufficiently on the tradition of the Church, the bishop addressed them.
“My dear candidates, the Church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s Eucharistic table. Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant,” he said.
Debbie Whalen grew up in a non-denominational Christian faith.
“I needed a home for my faith,” she said. “It’s really about coming back and finding fulfillment with your family and with Jesus.”
She had seen how happy her husband and sister were in the Catholic faith and decided to join.
“Now, I get to join in that happiness,” she said. “When you have friends and family who are having babies, they are asking you to be Godparents, and you can’t participate in that because you are not a full Catholic. That’s something that I was missing out on.”
Family is also the motive for Amanda Theobald.
“To be honest, we’re getting married and it is a big part of his life and I wanted to share that with him,” she said, pointing to fiance Thomas Horton, who offered her guidance and support during the preparation process.
For Horton, the faith offers a sense of family.
“From the day I was born it has provided structure. Now, she becomes part of my family as well and it will provide structure for her,” he explained.
“It’s more than that,” Theobald added. “I think it’s more of a feeling of being whole. People go their whole lives looking for their significant other, and yes, that fills a void. But now this is something that can make us whole together. It kind of completes what we feel for each other. We have love, and now we have love for Jesus as well.”
Over 55 candidates, more than twice as many as last year, filled the sanctuary of the cathedral.
The elect will celebrate the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist during the Easter vigil. Candidates will make a full profession of faith and receive confirmation and first Eucharist.