MADISON -- The Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion for Candidates for Full Communion in the Catholic Church will be celebrated by the churches of the Diocese of Madison on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Parish in Waunakee.
Parishes from throughout the diocese will send over 200 people who will celebrate the sacraments of initiation this Easter, as well as their sponsors, family, and friends. About 800 people are expected. Bishop Robert C. Morlino will preside.
The celebration comes from an ancient Christian practice where those who were to celebrate the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) come forward at the beginning of Lent to show their intent. The people of the Church, in turn, promise support, guidance, and prayers.
The celebration is one part of a long process which is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The RCIA encompasses many facets of initiation, from the time a person first experiences the call of Christ or wishes to know about the Church, to the celebration of the sacraments of initiation and continued growth as a Christian. It also includes adaptations for those baptized in another Christian denomination and seek to become members of the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
The service includes three distinct parts. First, all listen to the reading of Scripture which recalls that Christ has called each person by name. Following the readings and homily, the catechumens — all those who are seeking Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist — are called by name to come forward. The bishop offers a brief instruction and asks the assembled group a few questions. He asks their godparent (those who have pledged personally to support each individual with prayer and instruction) and all of the assembled family and friends if they will continue to support the catechumens with their prayers.
Then, the catechumens sign their name in the Book of the Elect. Their signature serves as a public display that they have answered the call of Christ.
After the catechumens have signed the Book of the Elect, the candidates — those who were baptized in another Christian denomination and wish to be welcomed into the Catholic Church — are each called by name. The Catholic Church recognizes all baptisms that have been celebrated with water in the name of the Trinity. The bishop speaks to candidates and once again asks their sponsors and the assembly if they will support them with their prayers.
Today, most dioceses celebrate this liturgy each year on the First Sunday of Lent. Lent marks the beginning of a final period of prayer and preparation for those who will be baptized, confirmed, and receive Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. Each parish celebrates many aspects of initiation (including the sacraments themselves) in their own church, but they come together for this rite as a reminder of the larger Church.
St. John the Baptist Church is wheelchair accessible and large-print programs will be available. Those with other special needs (for example, a sign language interpreter) are asked to contact the Office of Worship as soon as possible at
or 608-821-3080. For more information on the liturgy go to www.madisondiocese.org/riteofelection
Patrick Gorman is the director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Madison.