On the journey to faith

On the journey to faith
Bishop Dennis Sullivan greets Joe Emmanuel Catalan of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Lindenwold, at the Rite of Election Feb. 22 at Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood. The ceremony is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the process by which individuals enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Also pictured is Joe’s mother, Olivia Catalan. Photo by James A. McBride

Bishop Dennis Sullivan greets Joe Emmanuel Catalan of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Lindenwold, at the Rite of Election Feb. 22 at Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood. The ceremony is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the process by which individuals enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Also pictured is Joe’s mother, Olivia Catalan.
Photo by James A. McBride

Growing up, Bryan Murphy had no conception of religion, let alone the Catholic faith. “It was pretty much rocket science to me” back then, he says.

His girlfriend, Kathryn Suttle, “would bring it up to me here and there, and give me a nudge,” but he didn’t take more interest in it until he found himself in the adoration chapel at St. Peter Church in Merchantville, praying for a beloved pet dog.

“I was bawling my eyes out, when all of a sudden I felt somebody reach inside me and lift me up,” he said. “It was a very powerful feeling. That was my sign, my push” into the Catholic faith.

On Feb. 22, the 22-year old Murphy was one of the 165 catechumens at Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood, at the Camden Diocese’s annual Rite of Election.

The catechumens, unbaptized believers, took the next step to entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), which culminates at the Easter Vigil.

With Bryan was Suttle, his sponsor and support. The two are parishioners at St. Mary’s in Gloucester.

“I was crying during the ceremony, I’m so happy for him,” Suttle said.

From 39 parishes came the catechumens with their sponsors, godparents, parish catechists, family and friends.

“All of you are on a journey, a new beginning, in the life of Christ,” Bishop Dennis Sullivan told them.

During the Rite of Election, the catechumens affirmed to Bishop Sullivan that they were ready to “enter fully into the life of the church” and receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy Eucharist.

As well, the godparents and the gathered assembly declared that the catechumens had “sufficiently prepared to be enrolled among the elect,” having “faithfully listened to God’s word … and responded to that word and begun to walk in God’s presence.”

Next, the catechumens greeted Bishop Sullivan at the altar, with their respective parish catechists carrying the Book of the Elect, signed by the catechumens and confirming their desire to be counted among God’s followers.

In a new tradition, the 165 stood on the altar with Bishop Sullivan, facing the faith community that they will join in five weeks.

Helen Pierce, from Holy Child Parish in Runnemede, began her journey after taking her oldest child to religious education classes.

“My son and my husband brought me to the decision to fully commit and start taking the classes,” she said.

In the Rite of Election, she felt “overwhelmed with joy and peace. Meeting Bishop Sullivan was an honor. I know (this process) will bring me closer to God.”

DeCarlo Perez, 24, from St. Monica’s in Atlantic City, remembers going to Mass when he was younger but falling out of the faith, until a trying time for his girlfriend brought them closer together.

“Her grandmother passed away, and we were praying the rosary every night,” he said.

The strong faith of his girlfriend, and their mutual support for one another during this time, was “the push that I needed.”

“I wanted to know more (about the Catholic faith). I knew it was important for me mentally, spiritually, and physically.”

He felt “pure joy” at the Rite of Election, he said.

While preparing to receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil, and fully becoming a part of the Catholic community, Perez is, at the same time, preparing for an upcoming boxing fight on April 10 in Philadelphia, with an undetermined opponent at press time.

When not training, he works in a hospital pharmacy.

Boxing is in his blood, as his grandfather fought Roberto Duran, and his uncle was a fighter, as well.

First stepping into the gym at age 10, his first professional match was in 2010.

No matter the outcome of his matches, he has the same ritual every night.

“Win, lose, or draw, I go home, hug my family, and thank God that I have loving, supportive family and friends, and a roof over my head.”

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