HARTFORD – Books lay open on four tables placed in the sanctuary before Archbishop Leonard P. Blair as men and women, with their godparents’ witness, signed their names into the Book of the Elect during the 2016 Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremonies on Feb. 14 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
Their signatures symbolize their request and desire to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.
Archbishop Blair was the principal celebrant, welcoming in English and Spanish more than 250 catechumens and candidates from 57 archdiocesan parishes. A large number of archdiocesan priests, deacons and religious participated.
The ceremonies extended ancient traditions of the church to those who will be received in the full communion of the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil.
In his homily on the First Sunday of Lent, Archbishop Blair discussed the temptations of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and the words of Saint Paul in Romans 10. He said it was fitting to celebrate the rite on this day because at the beginning of Lent, one realizes just how far one still has to go to draw nearer to Jesus Christ, whether catechumens, candidates or the fully initiated.
Also offering his blessing in English and Spanish, the archbishop said, “Those of us fully initiated into the life of the church rejoice at the desire of our friends to walk with Christ so that together,” as we hear from Saint Paul, “we may profess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead.”
Beribboned scrolls with the names of every candidate were delivered into a basket by parish representatives before the assembly as the candidates stood in their places, remaining standing until each had been called by name. The sponsors and the assembly affirmed the testimony about them.
The candidates and catechumens presenting themselves to Archbishop Blair and the assembly have been preparing within the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) programs at their respective parishes.
Some have chosen to re-enter into full communion with the church after having lapsed in practice as baptized Catholics or after sharing the faith from a distance with a Catholic spouse or children. Many have responded to the call of the Spirit to share more fully in the religious education and formation of their children.
Several spoke with the Transcript about their faith journeys, including Richard and Lisa Canelario, two of six people from St. Mary Parish in Simsbury. Both baptized Catholic, they were presenting themselves to be admitted to complete their Christian initiation with the reception of the sacraments of confirmation and holy Eucharist at Easter.
“When our children [ages 7, 8, and 14] started to question, we started to question ourselves” and decided to come back into the church, said Mr. Canelario. “It was really our kids who brought us back into the faith.”
Also from Simsbury were Kevin and Christina O’Connell. Kevin was sponsoring his wife.
He said Christina was a Protestant when they were married. Now that the children have been baptized, with one preparing for first Communion and another having made it, “my wife realized she wanted to be a part of the Catholic faith and experience. I think it’s brought us closer together as a family in the faith. I’m very proud of her.”
Parish groups large and small, including one group pulling up in a two-bus caravan, accompanied the catechumens, arriving with pastors and deacons, RCIA leaders and teachers, family and friends, many visiting the cathedral for the first time.
The liturgy was organized by Sister Mary Grace Walsh of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the archdiocesan provost for education, evangelization and catechesis.
“It is a great joy to be in the cathedral today when so many parishes bring their catechumens and candidates to celebrate the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion with Archbishop Blair. These are people excited about joining the church and the faith. Look how beautiful this was; it is such a joy.”