One by one, as their parishes were called, representatives of the churches across the Diocese of Phoenix carried the large, leather-bound books up the steps of the altar at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted affixed his signature to each, formally receiving those individuals listed inside as taking the next step toward full communion into the Catholic Church.
The Rite of Election is celebrated with a Liturgy of the Word the first Sunday of Lent — March 10 this year — for those preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil as well as the other sacraments of initiation: Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
Third in a four-step process instituted by St. Paul VI in 1972, it launches a final 40-day period of more intense preparation for the catechumens — now known as “the elect” — to receive the sacraments.
“You have freely chosen to answer God’s call to become one in Christ in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Olmsted said. “This is a great blessing; one in which we rejoice greatly with you. But it also takes great courage and work on your part.”
Referencing the day’s Gospel (Lk 4:1-13) in his homily, the bishop likened the upcoming 40 days to Jesus’ own time of temptation by the devil before the Son of God entered His public ministry.
“Our life on earth is spiritual warfare. Spiritual combat against the power of evil is an essential part of life in Christ,” he said.
Then, acknowledging the testimony of godparents and teachers, Bishop Olmsted asked the catechumens to stand and express their desire to fully enter Church life. A unified response, “I do,” then launched the offering of their names for enrollment.
Have they faithfully listened to God’s word proclaimed by the Church?— Ms. LaPorte (@MsLaPorteCCHS) March 11, 2019
Have they responded to that word and begun to walk in God’s presence?
Have they shared the company of their Christian brothers and sisters and joined with them in prayer?
THEY HAVE. #RCIA #RiteOfElection pic.twitter.com/PdmNEP97rT
A total of 521 catechumens took part, according to Alyssa Yingling, coordinator for the diocesan Office of Worship.
For Jerry Eidson of Mesa, the conversion was intellectual.
A Protestant most of his life, Eidson said that less than a year ago, his wife, Mary, was at a friend’s Catholic church and described a “beautiful experience in which the Lord just took her to the foot of the cross.”
Jerry then wanted to know why the Catholic Bible includes seven books others don’t.
“For every argument I had, there was a biblical reason why the Catholic Church does it. It blew my mind: We were already Catholic and didn’t know it.”
Abigail Montanez, 20, of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Peoria, began RCIA at her mother’s urging.
“My mom was always having me go to church. I had never been baptized, and I didn’t really like church, but my mom said, ‘Give this [formation] a try,’” she recalled. “I liked the classes. I have learned just how much God is always with us, through sickness and health, and that we should always pray to Him. It was pretty awesome to be here.”
#RiteofElection beyond Phoenix
As you, the elect and the candidates, continue your Lenten journey, you never walk alone! A very large family of faith is waiting to welcome you on #Easter as you receive the sacraments of initiation. –@Cardinal_Wuerl #HomilyTweet #RiteofElection— DC Archdiocese (@WashArchdiocese) March 17, 2019
Christine Poz, 18, of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Phoenix, only began attending Mass last August.
“I had some struggles in life. I started going to church, and that put me on a good path,” she said.
Sponsors saw the rite reinforcing their unique and significant role.
“What an honor, but a big responsibility,” said Poz’s aunt Maria Guadalupe-Lopez, a parishioner at St. James the Greater in Glendale.
“Many people read the Bible like a regular book, but it is not a regular book; it is God talking to you. You must meditate, listen and learn. [You] become like a tabernacle for the Holy Spirit.”
Another sponsor went even further.
“This almost should be a refresher for all Catholics,” offered Eidson’s sponsor Raymond Casillas of St. Anne Parish in Gilbert. “It is a way of learning and understanding. It deepens one’s appreciation of their Catholic faith.”