WAUNAKEE -- 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 parishes of the Diocese of Madison on Sunday, Feb. 26, at 3 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Church, 209 South St., Waunakee.
Parishes from throughout the diocese will send those 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.
Chosen by God
The word "election" is used in this liturgy to mean "chosen." In the liturgy we acknowledge those who seek to be part of the Church have been chosen by God. 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 their support, guidance, and prayers.
The celebration is one part of a long process that 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 who were baptized in another Christian denomination and seek to become members of the Catholic Church through the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
Book of the Elect
The service includes three distinct parts. First, all listen to the reading of Scripture and a homily. Then 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 sponsors (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, who calls each one of us by name.
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 the candidates and once again asks their sponsors and the assembly if they will support them with their prayers.
Reminder of universal Church
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 Universal Church.
St. John the Baptist Church is wheelchair accessible. Large-print worship aids are available upon request. For more information, or if you have questions regarding accessibility, visit the Office of Worship Web page at www.madisondiocese.org/worship or call the Office of Worship at 608-821-3080.
Dr. Patrick Gorman is director of the Office of Worship, Diocese of Madison.