By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Two teenage cousins from Blue Grass were among the 61 catechumens and 58 candidates to participate in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
The first of two celebrations was held Feb. 18 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The next one will be Feb. 25 at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa. At the Ottumwa celebration, 17 catechumens and 10 candidates are expected to participate.
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.
Cousins Karlee Grunder and Lauren Durst, both 13, are journeying together to the Catholic Church via St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass. Their moms, sisters Stephanie Grunder and Melissa Durst, said they totally support their daughters’ decisions. Stephanie and Melissa had fallen away from the church when they were young, after their mother passed away. They are excited to return to church and celebrate with their daughters.
Karlee and Lauren have some familiarity with the church. They attended and then volunteered with Vacation Bible School. Their great-aunt, Nancy Treanor of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, also was available to answer the girls’ questions.
“We had a cousins’ weekend and attended Mass at St. John Vianney,” Nancy said. Karlee attended the Mass, during which Father Jim Vrba, the pastor, talked about baptism. Karlee asked her great-aunt about baptism. “After Mass, we went to Fr. Vrba and the gears started rolling in Karlee’s head,” Nancy said.
Melissa said that while she and Stephanie were growing up, their family was very involved in the church. Because of Nancy’s encouragement, Karlee and Lauren became interested in joining the Catholic Church and talked with their mothers about it.
Shirley Schmidt, coordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Andrew’s, worked directly with the two girls. “Shirley helped point the girls in the right direction,” Melissa said.
“They have wanted to be baptized and all it took was for somebody to invite them,” Shirley said. “They are lovely girls and their mothers attend the sessions with them.”
Both girls said they have learned a lot of about the church, but were nervous about going up to shake hands with Bishop Thomas Zinkula during the Celebration of Election. Now they look forward to entering the church during the Easter Vigil, with Father Bud Grant presiding and their great-uncle Deacon Terry Starns, parish life coordinator, assisting as the deacon.
During his homily at the Feb. 18 celebration, Bishop Zinkula emphasized to the candidates and catechumens that just like Jesus being led into the desert for 40 day and 40 nights, “you are entering into an important period of growth and grace; a time of purification and enlightenment.
“We who are already fully initiated members of the Catholic Church welcome you and pray that these weeks of Lent will be special for you and that you will hear God saying to you, ‘you are my beloved ones. With love, I am calling you. I choose you to be members of the Catholic, Christian family.”
Two themes of the readings for the celebration were hope and trust. Christian hope is a confident expectation that no matter what happens, God will be there. God is there for you and me, with you and me.
Bishop Zinkula informed the crowd that a teen from St. Ann Parish in Long Grove had died in an automobile accident on Ash Wednesday on his way to church. Coincidentally, the bishop had been at the Long Grove parish over the weekend for previously scheduled events. He said people know that “God is there for us in good times. God is also there to reach out and keep hope strong when there is tragedy or a challenge.”
The bishop told the candidates and catechumens that “you are not joining some small sect which has only recently sprouted in your midst. You are joining a longstanding, firmly established and historical Christian community…. Continue to participate in the process leading you to full membership in the Catholic Church.” He encouraged them to continue to pray, to study and to read sacred Scripture. “The Word of God must permeate your entire being.”
(More stories of journeys of faith will be in future editions of The Catholic Messenger.)