Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

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rite_electionArchbishop Henry J. Mansell witnesses catechumens as they step up to tables to sign the Book of the Elect with their sponsors as part of the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion celebrated on March 13 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. Archbishop Mansell welcomed 183 adults and children from 52 parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford who are preparing to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

HARTFORD – One of the most joyous occasions of Catholic communities took place March 13 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, where Archbishop Henry J. Mansell welcomed 183 adults and children from 52 parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford who are preparing to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.

Called the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, the liturgical rite marks the "election" or choosing of catechumens and candidates who have been preparing for the Church’s sacraments of initiation – baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist – that they will receive at the Easter Vigil.

"This is a wonderful celebration for people who are entering the Church from other faiths or have been on the journey to complete their sacraments of initiation for at least nine months," said Mary E. Marsan, archdiocesan coordinator for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

According to Mrs. Marsan, the rite is celebrated for two groups. Catechumens are unbaptized adults who have been discerning the call to the Catholic faith. Candidates for continuing conversion are those who have been baptized as Christians – either in other faiths or as Catholics – but have not received all of the sacraments of initiation and now want to complete their entry into the Church through confirmation and the Eucharist.

"To return to God is our ultimate destiny," said Archbishop Mansell in his homily as he welcomed the candidates and catechumens to the cathedral.

Noting that the Gospel of John reminds us that "in the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on love," he said, "Thank you for the way you are responding to God’s love. Thank you for continuing to proclaim God’s marvelous deeds … for you are God’s marvelous deeds."

Kathleen Mahon of Our Lady of Victory Parish in West Haven described the ceremony as beautiful. "It’s very inspiring to be here with other people who have been on the same journey that I’ve been on. It makes me happy," she said.

During the ritual, catechumens sign their name in the Book of the Elect, thus becoming known as "the elect." Inscribing their names is an allusion to the Book of Revelation, which calls all the baptized "the elect," or those who have been chosen by God.

"It’s been an inspiring experience building my faith, walking with Christ and developing a personal relationship with Jesus," said Terry Lee West of St. Paul Parish in Kensington. "It’s something that has helped me create a better life for myself and my family."

For the elect, the next few weeks before Easter are a time for prayer, retreat and reflection as they prepare for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.

"It’s breathtaking," said Matthew Martin of St. Joseph Parish in Bristol about the experience. "We’ve been preparing for this and now we’re here. You can feel the Holy Spirit all around us. Just taking it all in, I get the chills."

Also expressing her excitement was Breonna Simard of St. Augustine in Hartford, who has been going through the RCIA process at the urging of her sponsor and aunt, Marielle Swinson of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in West Hartford. "This has been a long journey, but I’m really looking forward to receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil."

For Kylee Tudine of St. Rita Parish in Hamden, who was there with her husband and sponsor, the day marked an opportunity to move forward with her conversion to the Catholic faith. "We were married two years ago and just moved from Ohio," she said. "I wasn’t ready to convert to the Catholic Church then, but I decided that after we moved, I would make that step."

Matthew Kondracki of St. Mary Parish in Windsor Locks was just happy to be asked to be a sponsor for both his sister and her husband. "It was an honor that they both asked me to be a sponsor," he said. "I can’t express how happy I am to be here with them."

Cindy Varni of St. Paul Parish in Glastonbury noted, "It’s been very moving for me," explaining that she was there at the inspiration of her sponsor, who had lost a child she had named after the late Pope John Paul II. "I saw her faith that got her through that tragedy and it helped me to make peace with God," she said. "It definitely has been a journey."

As if summing up the words for everyone, Peter Ronai of Our Lady of Victory/St. John Vianney in West Haven, said, "The RCIA process has just been wonderful. It’s changed the way I look at life and what I do," he noted. "It’s been a blessing and has brought meaning and direction to my life, not only by finding the Catholic Church and God, but just by being invited into this powerful family."

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.