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Parishes Gather for Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion
On Sunday, March 13, Bishop Bernard Hebda presided over the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord and welcomed those who will become new Catholics during the Easter Season. Traditionally held the First Sunday of Lent, this years celebration was the first in recent history to unite the two rites, bringing together 54 catechumens and 55 candidates from 28 parishes throughout the Diocese, along with their sponsors, families and friends.
Catechumens are preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation into the Catholic Church and will become members of the Body of Christ as they are Baptized, Confirmed and receive First Communion at the Easter Vigil. During the Rite of Election, their names were enrolled into the Book of the Elect.
Those who were previously baptized into another Christian faith community and who now wish to come into full communion with the Catholic Church are called candidates. They will be received into the Church sometime during the Easter season through the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Communion.
Upon entering the Church both the catechumens and candidates will join their Catholic sisters and brothers in sharing a life-long journey of conversion and commitment as disciples of Christ.
As he began his homily Bishop Hebda noted that though the Church follows three-year cycle of readings, the story of the temptation in the desert is so important that we hear it every year. He reminded the assembly that each year Jesus shows us that its possible to follow the Fathers will even in extreme circumstances.
Bishop Hebda pointed out that we are all given a choice whether to follow a path of sin, putting our will above Gods, or to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and put Gods will above our own.
I commend you for making the choice today to stand with Jesus Christ It is the most important decision that you make in your lives, the Bishop stated. The Church, in a very real way at this Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, pledges herself to be of assistance to you in that battle between good and evil; to make sure that you know that you are never standing alone on that battlefield with Christ that indeed youre part of a Church that loves you and that desires to sustain you.
We here in the Diocese of Gaylord are celebrating our 40th anniversary, Bishop Hebda added, and its wonderful that in this year there would be so many of you who would be moved either to seek baptism and membership in the church in that way, or indeed would desire for that continuing conversion leading you to become members of the Catholic Church. Its a great sign of inspiration for us who are already Catholic. As we strive to move forward, we know we need the gifts that you alone are able to bring. God knows exactly what He needs in building up the kingdom and Hes given every one of you a gift that only you have. Without you, we were weak, but with you, we are stronger.
May the Lord bless you not only this day, not only throughout this season of Lent as you prepare for the great Easter Vigil, but throughout your lives as Catholic Christians. May the Lord reveal to you the great love that he has for each one of you and help you to recognize that call to bring forth your gifts and to build up His church, Bishop Hebda concluded.
During the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion, each catechumen and candidate was called by name and came forward with his or her sponsor. After being greeted by Bishop Hebda they gathered in the sanctuary where their godparents and sponsors publicly affirmed they are prepared to be admitted to the Sacraments of Christian initiation. The entire assembly then pledged to continue to support each of them in faith, prayer and example. The catechumens were also asked to affirm their own desire to fully enter into the life of the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation.
At the Call to Continuing Conversion, after asking their sponsors about their preparedness, the Bishop prays that the candidates may conform their lives more closely to the pattern of Christs suffering, regarding Christ as their true wealth and wisdom.
Music for the celebration was provided by a choir comprised of members from the Alpena Catholic Community. Deacon Paul Fifer served as deacon for the liturgy.
Prior to the liturgy, a reception was held in the Parish Hall offering refreshments and the opportunity to build community as participants met one another, socialized and shared stories of their faith journeys.
All of the faithful are encouraged to pray for these individuals who will soon become members of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Gaylord.