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March 5, 2017

A special ceremony for those seeking full communion with the church

REGIONAL
Story and photos by Carolee McGrath

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Catechumens come forward to sign their name in the book of the elect, accompanied by their godparents, during the Rite of Election at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield, Sunday March 5.

SPRINGFIELD – Hundreds filled St. Michael’s Cathedral, Sunday, March 5, for the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion service for those coming into the Catholic Church.

One hundred and fifty-seven people enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and Rite of Christian Initiation for Children (RCIC) from 20 parishes throughout the Diocese of Springfield took another step toward becoming Catholic. They will complete the sacraments of initiation, which include baptism, first Communion and confirmation, during the Easter Vigil at their home parishes, which will be celebrated Saturday, April 15.

“So they go through a year-long process with a team of people from their parish who try to answer their questions and to slowly initiate them into what it means to be part of the Catholic Church,” explained Sister of St. Joseph Paula Robillard, director of the Springfield Diocese’s Office of Faith Formation.

The Rite of Election is for catechumens, who were never baptized. During the ceremony, Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski called them forward, along with their godparents, asking them if they “wish to enter fully into the life of the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist.”

Then the catechumens came forward to sign their name in the book of the elect. The catechumens are now called members of the elect.

Isela Rivera, a new member of the elect, is from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Holyoke.

“My father was Catholic and my mother was Pentecostal. So growing up I had two different religions. So as an adult having kids, I wanted them to have a different experience of God and church,” said Rivera. “I started to go to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s been 13 years and I decided I want to make the sacraments.”

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More than 50 people from Our Lady of Guadalupe took part in the ceremony and will enter the church this Easter. Some are now members of the elect, like Rivera. Others are candidates, who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or another Christian denomination.

Rivera’s 10-year-old son, who was baptized, will be making his first Communion at the Easter Vigil. Jennie McGiverin, the director of faith formation for the Holyoke parish, said many families are going through RCIA together.

“When they come to sign up their students, I personally ask the parent if they completed their sacraments,” McGiverin explained.

“Many say they have not and I’ll ask them if they’d like to make their sacraments with their child and they always do,” she said.

Candidates took part in the celebration of the Call to Continuing Conversion during the hour long ceremony in which the bishop asked each candidate to stand saying, “The church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s eucharistic table. Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”

Candidate Morgan Wilson was baptized Catholic. He is going through the RCIA program at St. Cecilia Parish in Wilbraham.

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Morgan Wilson poses with his fiance and sponsor, Donielle Sliwa. The couple will be married April 29.

“Not only will I be taking Communion and making my confirmation, but two weeks later I am getting married to my sponsor, Donielle. Then right after that, the next day on April 30, we are heading to Rome for a special blessing by the pope,” said Wilson.

While many have pointed to the declining numbers of practicing Catholics in the United States, the crowded altar surrounding Bishop Rozanski at the end of the service suggested something different.

“All of these people are searching to find God and feel they’re going to find God in the Catholic Church. It makes my heart do jumps and they’re so happy and everyone is smiling,” said Sister Robillard.

Light refreshments were served at the Bishop Marshal Center at the conclusion of the ceremony.

A video version of this story will be featured on an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” which airs Saturday evenings on WWLP-22NEWS.