By Anne Marie Amacher
IOWA CITY — Around 800 people gathered for a combined Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates March 13 at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City.
This is the first time that the Diocese of Davenport has held a single ceremony at one site, said Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s director of liturgy. Typically, the diocese schedules one or two ceremonies in Davenport and another ceremony in Ottumwa the following week.
“The idea is to have the diocese together as one,” Deacon Agnoli said. “We finally have a place that can hold up to about 1,000 people and is more centrally located in the diocese. We’ll try it and see how it works.”
This year about 250 men, women and children are expected to join the Church in the Diocese of Davenport at the Easter Vigil.
Candidates are individuals who have already been baptized and will receive the sacraments of the Eucharist and confirmation. Catechumens will receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Martin Amos referred to St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which has only six chapters and in most Bibles is only five or six pages long. “It has been referred to as the Queen of Epistles. If you have the time or inclination I would recommend reading the whole of Ephesians,” he said. “In some very beautiful and moving language St. Paul highlights core, basic theology and insights into what we are doing today and what it means.”
The bishop told those gathered, “God chose you in Christ before the world began. Your election and call to conversion today is a response. The acceptance of you catechumens by the Church is founded on this election by God in whose name the Church acts. Today you are making a clear and public response to that call and election.”
God calls believers to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love. Paul says “People of faith have the ability to see not just with human eyes, but with an inner vision ‘the immeasurable scope of God’s power in us who believe.’”
Bishop Amos said that through the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist — “you are becoming one with Christ, the source of all unity. You are to become fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
The bishop noted that God bestows gifts upon each individual and that no one is more important than another. “Each of us has a role to play.”
Following the homily, the catechumens were presented. Each parish read the names of the catechumens, who then stood and said “present.” After all names were announced from a parish, the individuals sat down and the next parish announced its catechumens. 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.
The catechumens and their parish representatives went to the front of the church where the bishop greeted the catechumens. After signing each parish’s Book of The Elect, Bishop Amos declared the catechumens had been chosen for the Easter sacraments. They are now called the elect.
Then the parishes called out the candidates’ names and they answered “present.” 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. Candidates then went forward to meet the bishop. Intercession and prayer for the elect and candidates followed, and then the concluding rites and recessional took place. Participants celebrated with a reception afterward in the parish hall.
Journey to initiation
During this Lenten season, about 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 first Sunday of Lent.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is held the same day as the Rite of Sending.
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.