By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Winter weather kept some parishes away, but many were able to attend a ceremony Feb. 21 at Sacred Heart Cathedral that prepares those in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) to receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil.
About 760 people — catechumens, candidates, sponsors, pastors, RCIA coordinators and family members — were registered to attend the Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates. About 560 attended the event, said Deacon Frank Agnoli, the Diocese of Davenport’s director of liturgy and master of ceremony for the event. The same ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 28 at St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Ottumwa to accommodate catechumens and candidates in the western portion of the diocese.
During his homily, Bishop Martin Amos first spoke to the catechumens, those who will receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.
“Today is very special in your lives,” and in the life of the church of the diocese, he said. “Today formally ends the period of catechumenate.”
It has been a period of advancing in spiritual life, studying fundamentals of Christian teaching, initial conversion and the intention to enter into a relationship with God and the church. Today the church “judges your state of readiness and decides on your advancement toward the sacraments of initiation,” Bishop Amos said. God is the one who elects; the church makes it visible. “From this day on you catechumens are called the elect.”
The catechumens “have studied our beliefs, prayed with us, experienced God’s grace, hopefully found a caring community and now with deliberate will and an enlightened faith make known your intention to receive the sacraments of the church.”
Bishop Amos encouraged the catechumens to continue their journey of faith through Lent “until we gather at the solemn Easter Vigil to proclaim He is risen and we have died and risen with Him.”
Addressing the candidates, Bishop Amos said, “you have already been baptized into Christ. You are already part of the body of Christ with us. You have already died with Christ and risen with him.
“But today you declare your intention to complete your Christian formation and be fully initiated into the Catholic Church at Easter through your profession of faith and the celebration of the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist.
“May God who has begun the good work in all of us bring it to completion.”
Following the homily, the catechumens were presented. Bishop Amos greeted them. Their sponsors affirmed that the catechumens have listened to and begun to respond to God’s Word. The assembly affirmed that it is willing to support the catechumens, in faith, prayer and example. After signing the parishes’ Books of The Elect, Bishop Amos declared that these catechumens had been chosen for the Easter sacraments.
Then the candidates were called forward and greeted by the bishop. Their sponsors affirmed that the candidates had come to a deeper appreciation of their baptism and reflected on the tradition of the church. The assembly affirmed the testimony that had been given and also pledged their support.
Final steps to the Catholic Church
During this Lenten season, nearly 250 people in the Diocese of Davenport are taking the final steps in the journey toward initiation into the Catholic faith.
For those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the Rite of Sending, followed by the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, mark the beginning of their Lenten journey toward the Easter sacraments.
The Rite of Sending formally asks the Catholic Church to accept the catechumens as members of the elect and to pray for them; it is held in each parish.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is held the same day as the Rite of Sending.
In the diocese, this ceremony is held on two different dates at two different locations to accommodate catechumens and candidates. The first ceremony was held Feb. 21 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport; the second will be held Feb. 28 at St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Ottuwma. (See related story.)
The next rite is the Penitential Rite for candidates, which recognizes those individuals who have already been baptized in the Christian faith. The congregation prays for the grace of continuing conversion for the candidates.
On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, the church celebrates the scrutinies of the elect. Each of the scrutinies are intended to “uncover and heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect, and to bring out, and strengthen all that is upright, strong and good,” said Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s director of liturgy.
This is also a time to pray for those who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil. “We pray that any attachment to evil might be removed, and that they be truly converted to Christ,” he noted.
During the third and fifth week of Lent respectively, the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are “handed over” (in Latin, traditio) to the catechumens. They then “hand back” the creed on Holy Saturday before the Vigil. They pray the Lord’s Prayer for the first time that night.