HARTFORD – Archbishop Leonard P. Blair congratulated 261 people March 9 as they stepped closer to full union with the Catholic faith during joyful ceremonies at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
The 84 catechumens – students of the faith who have not yet been baptized – and 177 candidates – those baptized in the Catholic or other Christian faith but who have not yet received the sacraments of confirmation or Eucharist – hailed from 69 parishes across the Archdiocese of Hartford. They represented the largest number of participants since 2008.
There were two distinct ceremonies. During the Rite of Election, godparents and the assembly affirmed that the catechumens were worthy to be admitted to participate in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. The catechumens then signed their names in the Book of the Elect, signifying declarations that they intend to enter fully into the life of the church. The catechumens then became the elect, and will receive the sacraments at their parishes during the Easter vigil Mass.
During the Call to Continuing Conversion, parish representatives placed scrolls with the names of the candidates in a basket in the sanctuary. Their sponsors and the assembly then affirmed the testimony about them, and Archbishop Blair stated that the church recognized their desire “to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s eucharistic table.”
The ceremonies are organized each year by Mary Marsan, archdiocesan coordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, among other titles, at the Office of Religious Education and Evangelization (OREE). She told participants before the ceremonies that the faithful are praying for them and will continue to do so.
Father Christopher Tiano, OREE director, told the participants, “If someone hasn’t said it already, I’ll say it: Thank you. Thank you for saying yes to God’s call.” He urged them to do something with this experience. “You oftentimes are the very men and women who can be very useful in your parish communities,” he said.
Father Tiano told the Transcript, “It’s a grand day because we celebrate with people from across the archdiocese who are becoming Catholics, who are either converting or coming to us even without baptism, and it makes this day so special and so wonderful because there are so many people who are now brought into the joys of the Catholic faith; and the archbishop gets to meet them, gets to encourage them, gets to guide them along the way.”
Miguel Marrero III was one of the candidates representing St. Augustine Parish in Hartford. He said, “I’m very excited to be building my personal relationship with Christ and I’m grateful to be here. I want to set an example for my children, who are currently going through catechism classes, and just to be their leader.”
Another candidate from St. Augustine, Mario De la Vega, said, “It’s a big transition for me because it helped me develop a better relationship with God, and with that I really feel that I’m a part of the church community right now.”
Two catechumens from St. Bernard Parish in Enfield were Selina Carter and her niece Jonna Carter, who were accompanied by their godparent Ann Marie Carter, Selina’s sister-in-law.
“I really needed something in my life. Something was missing, and so I started going to church with Ann Marie Carter,” said Selina, who said she moved here from Michigan in July. “I’ve always been searching for something. I knew something was missing in my life, that empty feeling, and this is it,” she said.
“I didn’t know what was missing until I got the Lord in my life, and now I know that that’s what it was, because I’m feeling more and more secure and just whole,” she added.
Jonna said, “Over the last couple of years, I’ve kind of been in a dark phase.” She said she wasn’t close to her family until an aunt died, and the experience helped draw her closer. “I started realizing a lot of stuff I’ve been missing my whole life, so it’s kind of like one last piece put in. It’s nice,” she said.
Ann Marie said, “When [Selina] first moved here, I used to tell her, ‘I go to church every Sunday.’ And she goes, ‘Do you mind if I come along?’ and I said, ‘I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all.’”
Selina started taking Jonna to church with her, and then they both started classes in preparation for conversion, Ann Marie said. “It’s amazing how God works,” she said.
Archbishop Blair said in his homily that the twin ceremonies were “one of the most beautiful and joyful occasions of the year.” He added, “The focus of Christianity is not on sin and death, but on Christ, who conquered sin and death.... Christianity is the religion of the God who is pure being and who overcomes all evil.”
At the end of the ceremonies, Archbishop Blair said, “Sometimes applause is for something completed, something accomplished, but other times it is for people who are on their way.... We want to send them on their way with our love and support and our prayers, and also with our applause and congratulations.”
The applause was long and loud.