HARTFORD – As a sign of their faith and commitment to the Catholic Church, about 200 people from 65 parishes are expected to come to the Cathedral of St. Joseph on March 9 for the annual combined celebration of the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
The ceremony, which always takes place on the first Sunday of Lent, is for unbaptized catechumens who have been preparing to enter the church at the Easter Vigil; and for those baptized in any Christian faith but who have not received the sacraments of confirmation or the Eucharist.
According to Mary Marsan, archdiocesan coordinator for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the ceremony will begin with the Liturgy of the Word and a greeting and homily by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair.
Then the catechumens will be recognized, prayed over by the archbishop, and called forward to sign the Book of the Elect as a sign of their fidelity to the church and commitment to entering into this final period of prayer and fasting in the Lenten season.
The Book of the Elect, she explained, “harkens back to the days of the early catechumens who would make a very serious commitment to the church at the risk of persecution and even death.”
Next, candidates for full conversion, who also bring their sponsors, family members and members of their parish RCIA team, are recognized and prayed for by the archbishop and congregation. Similarly, they sign a scroll confirming their readiness to enter into full communion with the church.
Parishes typically hold a “Rite of Sending” ceremony earlier in the day during Sunday Mass to formally send their candidates to the cathedral, Mrs. Marsan explained. “So it’s a full day of celebration for them to begin their final preparation for initiation into the church,” she said.
The ceremony “helps candidates recognize that they are part of the universal church,” she continued. “Many have never been to the cathedral before; so they come together and see others who have been going through the same process as they have been doing.
“They receive the sacraments in their parish at the Easter Vigil, which is traditionally recognized as the high point of our faith,” she said. “That’s when the early church welcomed people into the church – the feast when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. So it’s a tradition that we continue with this rite of baptizing new people into the church.”