Faith is a journey, bishop says at Rite of Election

Faith is a journey, bishop says at Rite of Election

rcia-webBishop Dennis Sullivan greets a participant in the RCIA during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Agnes Church, Blackwood, on Feb. 17. The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is the process by which individuals, including baptized members of other churches, enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Standing with the bishop are acolyte Peter Traum, left, and Deacon Michael Carter.

Photo by James A. McBride

BLACKWOOD – Nearing the end of his first week as bishop of Camden, Bishop Dennis Sullivan presided at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Agnes Church, Our Lady of Hope Parish here on Feb. 17.

The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is part of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process, taken by individuals who desire to become Christians in the Catholic tradition.

Fifty parishes were represented, with 221 candidates (baptized into another Christian faith, and seeking to enter the Catholic Church) and 217 catechumens (unbaptized believers, seeking the Catholic faith), with their godparents, sponsors, and catechists, affirming their readiness to become part of the Catholic Church.

With each called by name, the catechumens were the first of the two groups to stand before Bishop Sullivan. The deacon presenter, Deacon Gerard Jablonowski, informed the bishop that those standing had “found strength in God’s grace in the community of faith” and ask that they be allowed to participate in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.”

Bishop Sullivan asked the catechumens’ godparents if their loved ones were “sufficiently prepared to be enrolled in the Elect for the coming celebration of Easter.”

After the godparents affirmed the catechumens’ readiness, the bishop called on the entire gathered assembly to “include them in your prayers and affection as we move toward Easter.”

Next, parish catechists presented Bishop Sullivan with their parish’s Book of the Elect, signed by every candidate and catechumen, which asserted their readiness in becoming disciples of Christ.

The candidates then stood before Bishop Sullivan for the Call to Continuing Conversion and, just as with the catechumens, they were affirmed by their sponsors, family, and the congregation in their readiness to receive the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and confirmation.

In speaking to the catechumens and candidates, and those supporting them, Bishop Sullivan urged the newly elect to remember that their faith is “a lifelong journey. You must keep at the journey, with its ups and downs.”

The bishop also urged the catechumens and candidates to stay connected to their parish, and its ministries, for “that’s where you’ll find the church.”

“If you stay connected to the parish, you stay connected to the living body of Christ,” he said.

Brenda Schroeder, 25, a candidate from Holy Child Parish in Runnemede, was baptized into the Catholic faith but never received any other sacraments.

Shortly before her mother died 10 years ago, when she was 15, Schroeder felt a push to embrace the Catholic faith and on this day, supported by her fiancé, William Buck, she affirmed her readiness.

Growing up an only child in a troubled household, Schroeder lived in a place “that wasn’t very balanced,” she said. Today, with a family that includes two children from William’s previous relationship, Brianna and Kayla; their own 3-year-old daughter, Eliana, and an upcoming February 2014 wedding, Brenda wants to make sure that she instills in her children “the faith and love of God that I wasn’t shown, and nobody taught me, growing up.”

“I found it on my own. Having faith, and belief, has helped me through a lot.”

Today, no longer on her own in the journey, she feels support from William and Holy Child Parish.

“It’s not just (William and me); it’s our congregation. We’ve become a family; we know each other, we check on each other,” she said.

In six weeks, at the Easter Vigil, Schroeder, and the catechumens and other candidates in the Camden Diocese, will receive the sacraments and join the Catholic faithful in a lifelong journey of faith.

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