By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Patty Richards of Davenport felt the presence of her late mother guiding her to join the Catholic Church. Joe Yockey of Iowa City and his wife Sze Sze were so moved by watching an interfaith prayer service following the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy in Connecticut that they wanted to find a faith community in which to raise their daughter. These are two stories of many as to what influences people to join the Catholic Church.
Richards and Yockey were among participants in this year’s Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates, held March 9 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. An identical celebration will be held Sunday, March 16, at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa to better serve the people of the diocese. Bishop Amos was to preside at both events. More than 200 men, women and children anticipate entering into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.
Those preparing to enter the Church are either candidates or catechumens. Candidates are individuals who have been validly baptized in the Catholic Church or another Christian denomination and are preparing to receive the sacraments of Eucharist and confirmation. Catechumens will receive all three sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Amos focused on the meaning of the Light of faith. “To see spiritually, we need light, the Light with a capital “L,” the Light of faith … with spiritual Light we see the vast richness and beauty of God’s love which surrounds us. We see God’s love for us in the hug of a spouse or child, a community of faith as we come to RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) sessions, the promise of salvation as we partake of Eucharist.
“In God’s light we see the spiritual dust and dirt, too. Did you ever see particles of dust dancing in the sunlight? Or the way light shows the cobwebs in the corners, or the dust on the shelf we thought we had just cleaned? We see the effects of a baptismal washing, the welcome of the Father for the prodigal son in Confession, the life-giving grace of the spirit in Confirmation, the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.”
To the candidates and catechumens, he observed: “Like a crystal you are not the light, but the light shines in and through you in a multitude of diverse colors and shades, all reflecting the beauty of God.”
Following his homily, the catechumens were presented. A representative from each parish read the names of the catechumens, who came forward with their sponsors to be introduced to the bishop. As each parish finished its introduction, the bishop signed the Book of the Elect. The 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 bishop then declared the catechumens have been chosen for the Easter sacraments. They are now called the elect.
Parish representatives called the names of the candidates, who approached the bishop with their sponsors. The sponsors and assembly affirmed the testimony and pledged support to the candidates. All the elect and candidates filled the sanctuary as intercessions and prayers were offered.
Richards, a candidate, said her mom was raised Catholic but stopped going to church when she married at age 16 to a non-Catholic. Growing up, Richards and her family occasionally attended a Nazarene church. Later in life, she joined the Presbyterian church and became a deacon.
When Richards’ mom was on her death bed, Richards said she called a Catholic priest to anoint her mom. “She wouldn’t stop screaming. Then as soon as the priest anointed her, she stopped screaming. I don’t understand it.” But that memory stuck with her.
She believes her mother guided her to the Catholic Church. Richards began attending Mass at Holy Family Parish in Davenport. She didn’t understand everything, but felt that she belonged there.
Last fall, Richards joined Holy Family’s RCIA program led by Greg and Sandi Hansen. “Greg and Sandi did an excellent job making me feel at ease with everything.”
Richards continued her journey to the Church despite opposition from her brother and friends. A friend told her that Catholicism is “the devil’s religion.”
Yockey, raised Presbyterian, stopped going to church around the time he entered college. Later, after the difficult birth of their daughter Emma, Yockey and his wife discussed the need to find a faith community.
Yockey said he was first drawn to the Catholic Church as an art history major in college. The works of the artists and the churches built appealed to him. His curiosity continued and he began learning about Catholic theology. Things started to “make sense” to Yockey.
But the defining moment occurred when he was watching an interfaith service after the Sandy Hook shooting. The last speaker was a Catholic bishop. “I felt calmer after hearing him.”
From there, Yockey said he shifted from reading theology to wanting to explore spirituality and talked with Father Ed Fitzpatrick, priest director of the Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Eventually, Yockey joined RCIA. “The Newman Center has done a really good job and offered a wonderful outlet in my development,” he said. Many of his questions were answered. “For me, I view this as a process and never being finished.”
His wife decided not to enroll in RCIA so she could care for their daughter. “She still has questions,” Yockey said. The couple’s daughter will be baptized in the Catholic Church in May at the Newman Center.
Final steps to the Catholic Church
The next rite for candidates is the Penitential Rite, which recognizes those individuals who have already been baptized in the Christian faith. The church community prays for their ongoing conversion of heart.
On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, the Church celebrates the scrutinies of the elect. Each of the scrutinies is 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. This is also a time to pray for the elect, who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil.
During the third and fifth weeks of Lent, respectively, the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are “handed over” (in Latin, traditio) to the elect. They “hand back” the creed on Holy Saturday before the Vigil. They pray the Lord’s Prayer for the first time that night.