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February 24, 2010
More than 1,100 people to participate in Rites of Election
By John Gleason
Lent is the time when Catholics prepare themselves to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter. Lent also represents the final part of the journey many people are on to be fully admitted into the Catholic Church.
On the afternoon of Feb. 21 scores of the 1,102 people who have been attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes to become full members of the Catholic Church participated in Rite of Election liturgies at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. Some of those entering the Church this Easter will participate in Rite of Election liturgies on Feb. 28.
During this rite, the names of those seeking the sacraments of initiation—baptism, Communion and confirmation—are called forward to be recognized by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. These “catechumens” then reaffirm their intention to be initiated.
Recognized in a step named Call to Continuing Conversion are “candidates”—those people who have been baptized but have not received other sacraments.
James Cavanagh, director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver’s metro-area parishes, said the step catechumens and candidates participate in is a critical moment.
“It’s a milestone for them—a time of purification,” he said. “This is the point in the pilgrimage when they‘re coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.”
Cavanagh said he likes to compare the process to dating.
“In the RCIA process, the period of evangelization and inquiry is just like getting acquainted with a number of people,” he said. “Eventually, you get to a point where you really like one particular person and want to go steady. The Rite of Election is similar to the time when you ask that person to marry you. It’s a serious commitment and now you have six weeks of ‘marital preparation,’ otherwise known as Lent.”
Across the archdiocese, RCIA groups have been working tirelessly to prepare their candidates and catechumens for this event. At St. Rose of Lima Parish in Denver, Director of Religious Formation Laure Lopez said that for her the biggest reward is to see the conversion process her candidates go through.
“It’s fantastic to see them prepare and get excited about this time,” she said. “As they get ready for this ceremony one of the last things I tell them is that the Lenten period is really a period of conversion of heart.”
One of the candidates Lopez mentioned is Davina Bonser. The 39-year-old mother of three was baptized into the Catholic Church but, in her words, “fell out of it.” She said her journey back started when she became a Headstart teacher at St. Rose.
“Working with the people there made me see that I was missing something,” she said. “This is a small parish community with caring people. I was taken with the homilies I heard, how they spelled out in layman’s terms just how God relates to my daily life. This process is bringing me closer to him.”
Over at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, catechumen Rosemary Granfell has her own story of why she wants to come into the Catholic Church. The 69-year-old mother of four was brought up in the Christian Science Church but stopped attending services while still a youth. She was married in the Episcopalian Church but described her participation in that church as sporadic at best. When one of her daughters went through intensive chemotherapy and, later, a bone marrow transplant, Granfell thought the world might be crashing down on her.
“I was told to be strong, that I really had to believe,” she said. “But I was unprepared for spirituality. Still I knew what I needed was a firm belief and faith. I couldn’t get that without the Church—I couldn’t get that on my own.”
Through a friend she found out about St. Thomas More and the RCIA program. She is now looking forward to the Rite of Election as well as being baptized during the Easter Vigil at the end of Lent.
“Let me tell you, the Holy Spirit just picked me up and put me on this road,” she said. “I’m proud of what I’m doing for my soul because it’s been waiting a long time.”
St. Thomas More Director of Catechesis Jere Allen said Granfell’s story is compelling, but not unique. She said that each of the more than 60 candidates and catechumens at the parish have deep personal reasons for wanting to come into the Church.
“There’s no doubt, this is a significant change in their lives,” she said.