By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — A septuagenarian said he didn’t want to risk spending eternity separated from his Catholic wife. The wife of a Sudanese refugee wanted their family to grow in faith together. A local television news anchor sought to learn more about his fiance’s faith. A chancery chef was moved by retired diocesan priests and Catholic staff members.
Everyone participating in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion on March 5 at St. Patrick Parish had a special reason for wanting to enter the Catholic Church.
This was their final preparation for the Easter sacraments. 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 at the Easter Vigil. Catechumens will receive all three sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Participation in the rite, held the first Sunday of Lent, was optional for candidates but required for catechumens.
Bishop Martin Amos asked for and received the assembly’s assent to call the 91 catechumens to the Easter sacraments. In response, the catechumens affirmed their desire to enter fully into the life of the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. “My brothers and sisters, I declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the Easter Vigil,” the bishop said. The catechumens’ names were inscribed into the Book of the Elect. From now until they enter the church, they will be known as the elect.
The 102 candidates approached the bishop, seeking to be admitted into the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist. Bishop Amos asked for and received the assembly’s assent to the candidates’ readiness to share fully in the church’s sacraments. The candidates affirmed their desire to receive the sacraments.
“The church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s eucharistic table,” Bishop Amos said.
“Join us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”
Candidate Gary Greene of Oskaloosa appeared to hold back tears as he walked up the aisle with his wife, Ellen, to approach Bishop Amos. After nearly 49 years of marriage, he decided to embrace his wife’s Catholic faith as his own. “I don’t know why I waited so long,” he said. “It was time.”
Candidate Laura Chuol of Hills was joined by her husband, Gatluak, a South Sudanese refugee, and their three young children. She grew up in the Church of Christ, while her husband is Catholic. “I thought it would be good for our family to be on the same page and grow together,” she said.
Jonathan Ketz, an anchor and reporter for WQAD-TV, Moline, Ill, has been learning about his fiance’s Catholic faith during Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. “I thought it would be a good idea for both of us to be a part of the same religion. I never had a religious background growing up, so it’s been good for me to learn about a religious faith,” he said. He participated in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion as a catechumen.
Jayne Sherry grew up Episcopalian, but fell away from her faith over time. She began cooking meals for retired priests and Diocese of Davenport staff members at the chancery in Davenport in late 2015, and was inspired to see people living out their Catholic faith in community. It inspired her to learn more about the church.
“I hadn’t been to church in years,” she said. “Being at the diocese, surrounded by a ‘family,’ made me want to be a part of that. Once I started RCIA, I just knew it was the right decision.”