The Catholic Church touches all the senses when it celebrates the Rite of Election with those preparing to join the universal Church next month at the Easter Vigil.
Hundreds filed into Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral March 9 for a gathering with the catechumens who are preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil.
The faithful sat shoulder to shoulder, representing parishes throughout the Diocese of Phoenix who have been receiving instruction through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
The companion program for children, 7 to 17, is called Rite of Christian of Children (RCIC).
The Rite of Election, celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, is a formal step along the path of those adults and children journeying toward reception into the Catholic Church as they prepare to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist.
Jodi Reeg is going through the program simultaneously with her daughter, Chloe, 11.
Reeg had a front row seat at the rite she attended with her formation leaders and two other adults from St. Theresa Parish.
“It was wonderful to see all the different churches bring the books of the elect to the bishop,” she said. “Coming into the Catholic faith, you don’t realize how big it is.”
Reeg said throughout the Mass she was cognizant of the music, candles, incense and liturgical colors of the church.
“I got an overwhelming feeling of the importance of the ceremony,” she said.
Grace and beauty
The rite, which coincides with the first Sunday of Lent, closes the Period of the Catechumenate.
At this rite, upon the testimony of sponsors and catechists and the catechumens’ affirmation of their intention to join the Church, the Church makes its “election” of these catechumens to receive the Sacraments of Initiation.
In the presence of the bishop (or his delegate), they inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect as a pledge of fidelity.
Now referred to as “the elect” or “the illuminandi,” which means, “those who will be enlightened,” they enter a period of deep spiritual readiness known as Purification and Enlightenment.
This period concludes with the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil, April 19.
Cindy Troiano, coordinator of youth ministry at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Scottsdale, was only able to get into the cathedral because of the kindness of a stranger.
Troiano was offered additional tickets so she could attend the rite with three youths in the RCIC program.
“As a youth minister, to be able to really see how the Holy Spirit was moving in such a powerful way through the sacraments, was such a blessing,” she said. “The youth were overwhelmed by the grace and beauty of the Church, and by how many people are so anxious to come into the Catholic Church.”
For the past 15 years, Deacon Milford Suida of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale has been privy to all sorts of reasons why people want to become Catholic: they like the cross on top of the church; they were driving by in a car and thought they’d check it out; they attend classes with an objective of trying to convert us to their thinking, only to be converted; they are raising children in the faith; or they have a deep yearning to be closer to God.
“The Holy Spirit works in so many different ways,” he said. “Certainly people who are shopping go in, and when they do they fall in love with what the Church teaches.”
Deacon Suida said the Catholic Church’s “selling point” is the deposit of faith.
“What was taught centuries ago is what we teach today, and what we’ll teach tomorrow,” he said. “And it’s that sense of stability that people are attracted to.”