Rite to receive those preparing for initiation held in Waunakee Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Mar. 05, 2009 -- 1:00 AM
  Rite of Election
 Bishop Robert C. Morlino receives Jessica and Tylr Halverson, catechumens from St. Bernard Parish, Madison March 1. The Halverson family, which also includes husband Mat and daughter Aiva, are preparing to enter the Catholic Church. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)

WAUNAKEE — For Catholics, Lent is an important time to prepare the soul — a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we journey to Christ’s death and resurrection.

But for the hundreds of people who were sent forth from parishes around the diocese to the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, this Lent is something more.

Each of the catechumens and candidates called forward to be recognized by Bishop Robert C. Morlino during the celebration March 1 at St. John the Baptist Church in Waunakee has a unique story behind their path to the Church. This event was one more step bringing them closer to the Sacraments of Initiation.

“To be blessed by the bishop is amazing — it happens only to a few, I guess, and I feel blessed, honored to be a part of this,” said Jeffery Eicher, a devout Lutheran his entire life, married for 21 years, and now a candidate for reception into the Catholic Church.

He will be confirmed at the Easter Vigil at St. Francis Xavier Parish, Cross Plains, sponsored by his son and father-in-law, and join the rest of his family in the Catholic Church.

This event was just another step in the journey, he said, but as he continues through Lent, “I’m going to stay in prayer. I’ve got a very strong family that supports me — they’ve waited a long time for this.”

The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion brings together all of the catechumens — those who are as yet unbaptized — and candidates — those baptized Christian and now seeking Confirmation in the Catholic Church — from parishes around the diocese. In ceremonies at their home parishes, they were sent forth to declare their intention of receiving the Sacraments of Initiation and full reception into the Church.

What is...
. . . the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion?

The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is a celebration held in dioceses around the country to “receive” those who are looking to enter the Catholic Church. Usually held on the first Sunday of Lent (the Sunday after Ash Wednesday), the event gathers all the catechumens and candidates from parishes around the diocese. The bishop receives them and blesses them as they begin the final period of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults before their Baptism, Confirmation, or reception into the Catholic Church.

. . . the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults?

Often abbreviated “RCIA,” this process is a way for people who have been baptized in other churches or who have never been baptized at all to learn about and enter the Catholic Church. Most but not all of the catechumens and candidates who go through RCIA receive their sacraments and are welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil, held in their parish on Holy Saturday.

. . . a candidate?

Candidates are those who have been baptized Christian and are seeking Confirmation in the Church.

. . . a catechumen?

Catechumens are those who are unbaptized and have entered the RCIA process to receive Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.

. . . the Book of the Elect?

The Book of the Elect is a book in which catechumens write their names, to show their intent to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist. The book is signed during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. After enrollment, the catechumens are called the “elect.”


Many of the catechumens and candidates who spoke to the Catholic Herald at the rite said they had been drawn to the Church through the witness of and their relationships with other people. Many said that the Church “fits” them.

Carl Turner, a catechumen from St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains, was brought to the Church by his fiancée, the youth minister at the parish. “She kinda helped me along the way and that’s how I got into it,” he said.

“In the past, I’ve seen other people and different church organizations out there that were very lenient and very . . . strict — they had their own ideas,” he said. “But this fit very well.”

Chase Janich of Poynette, who was baptized Lutheran and is getting confirmed through St. Paul’s University Catholic Center in Madison, was also drawn to the Church through his girlfriend — and his girlfriend’s mother.

“I never really thought about it until I met my girlfriend, and then I started to go to church more,” Janich said. “I wouldn’t say that I ‘enjoyed’ it, but it made me want to understand more. So her mom taught me more, and now I’m on my way to being a confirmed Catholic.”

For him, the journey to becoming Catholic is “a spiritual growth, a leap, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “But I’m excited.”

“For me, it was the fullness of the Catholic Church . . . all seven sacraments, and the social justice issues, too,” said Kendric Walters, a candidate from the Cathedral Parish who was baptized Methodist and confirmed Presbyterian.

Originally from Stevens Point, which has a large and vibrant Catholic community, Walters had thought about the Church in junior high school, but decided against it.

“But then I came to college here, and went to a Presbyterian Church, and it didn’t seem like the right fit for me,” he said. “So I looked around a bit and found the Catholic Church.”

Walters, along with 143 other candidates and 39 catechumens, were presented to the bishop by their sponsors at the rite March 1 after months of preparation in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. RCIA teaches participants about the Catholic Church and prepares them to receive the Sacraments of Initiation.

For many, the classes, which generally last from the fall through a post-Easter catechesis, or mystagogy, follows a long process — sometimes years — of discernment.

“For a while, I was never confirmed,” said Lisa Neustedter, a candidate for Confirmation from Sacred Heart Parish in Reedsburg. “My fiancé is Catholic, and he brought me back to the church — and I’m so happy I’m back.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Neustedter said of the rite. “I look forward to the Easter Vigil and getting confirmed.”

Pennie O’Hara of Lodi is currently in preparation to be confirmed in the Catholic Church after 13 years into her marriage to a Catholic.

“Bob was raised Catholic from birth, and I was always Christian, but grew up and was confirmed Methodist, and I was very much interested in practicing the same faith as Bob,” she said. “We’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of years, and made the decision that now is the time to go ahead and do it.”

She and her husband said the decision was influenced by the “holiness” of their then-pastor Msgr. Daniel T. Ganshert, who is now vicar general of the diocese. And while she said she was disappointed Monsignor Ganshert wouldn’t be there to guide her through the process, she’s found their new pastor, Fr. Francisco Higuerra to be wonderful.

Being at the event at St. John the Baptist Church was very emotional, but reassuring, O’Hara said. “It made me very confident in the decision I’ve made and very much want to be a part of the church,” she said. “It was very much a testament to the church family and that it’s a community — I really liked it a lot.”

“I think it’s a connection, with the larger church community,” Becky Thompson, the director of Lifelong Faith Formation at St. Joseph Parish in Baraboo, said of the event. “It’s making this more real to them.”

The upcoming months until Easter, she said, will be a time of spiritual preparation, reflection, and repentance. For those who will be Confirmed and receiving the Eucharist, they will be talking about Reconciliation and penance. As well, they will talk about what happens after their reception into the Church — how they can serve and use their gifts.

“It’s not a one-time shot, you know,” Thompson said with a laugh.

For the Catholics in the pews, either lifelong or those who were onetime catechumens or candidates, now is a time to pray for the people who will shortly be welcomed into the Church.

Since the beginning of the year, St. Joseph Parish has had a basket of postcards that each bears the name of a candidate or catechumen, Thompson said. “And I would encourage those from St. Joe’s to pick up one of those postcards, remember that person in prayer for the day, or at Mass, and to send that off saying that they prayed for them.

“That’s what I would hope — that they continue to shower them with prayer, and continue to model what a great celebrating community we truly are,” she said.

To listen to Bishop Robert C. Morlino’s homily on mercy and obedience and what we mean when we say “Amen” in prayer, go to select the Rite of Election file from the “Audio and Video” dropdown menu at the bottom of the page and click “Go” to download.

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