Nothing comparable: the Elect move towards full communion

North Texas Catholic
(Feb 16, 2024) Local

A sponsor places her hand on the shoulder of one of the elect during the Rite of Election on February 11, 2024, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls. Catechumens and candidates from parishes throughout the Northwest Deanery attended the liturgy. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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WICHITA FALLS — Catechumens and candidates from the Northwest Deanery gathered with Bishop Michael Olson at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls Feb. 11 for the Rite of Election and Continuing Conversion, entering their names into the Book of the Elect and beginning their final phase of conversion.

“The Rite of Election is truly a participation toward full communion in the Catholic Church,” said Father Jonathan Demma, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls. “When I see our catechumens and candidates signing their names to the Book of the Elect, I think about how all of the individual parishes will be coming together to present their candidates as one body in Christ. For them, it will be a firsthand realization of how we truly live our faith in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”

Incoming Church members undergo three major rites. In the first, the Rite of Acceptance, catechumens (those not baptized) and candidates (those baptized in a Christian faith and seeking full communion in the Catholic Church) dedicate themselves to learning the word of God and participating in the liturgy.

Bishop Michael Olson greets catechumens and candidates during the Rite of Election on February 11, 2024 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Also called the Enrollment of Names, the Rite of Election is the second rite. Upon signing their names in the Book of the Elect on or near the first Sunday of Lent and reaffirming their vows of conversion with their sponsors and godparents, catechumens and candidates become the elect. Though a simple celebration, the Rite of Election is a profound commitment for incoming members, pledging their names in fidelity to the list of those chosen for initiation: “This step is called election because the acceptance made by the Church is founded on the election by God, in whose name the Church acts” (RCIA 119).

The Period of Purification and Enlightenment follows, dedicated to studying the life of Christ in “the scrutinies,” particular readings from the Gospel of John, until fully coming into the Church at the Easter Vigil. “All through Lent we focus on the scrutinies,” explained Deacon Jim Bindel, RCIA director at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls. “They move forward to understanding the sacraments and understanding Jesus more, and taking everything from their minds — where it all goes first — to their hearts. And we give them a blessing each one of those weeks as they continue to move forward.”

Central to the process leading up to full communion is the role the community plays in praying for the elect on their journey. As incoming members near entering the Church, Dcn. Bindel said, the spiritual attacks can increase. “That's why we have sponsors that walk with them, and our RCIA — so that we’re a community, and we pray for each other together,” he said. “We ask our parishioners to pray for them also, so they have a lot of prayers to help them to move forward and give them that strength.”

Because of the large geographical size of the Diocese of Fort Worth, seven Rites of Election were held in various locations, including one exclusively in Spanish.

For Dr. Leland Turner, professor of history at Midwestern State University, his fiancée’s Catholicism finalized his decision after admiring the Church for 15 years.

Oscar Muñoz of Sacred Heart Parish in Seymour said converting has given him “more hope, love, faith” after taking a job at a hospital.

Bishop Michael Olson signs the Book of the Elect for each parish offering candidates and catechumens for enrollment during the Rite of Election on February 11, 2024 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Virginia Ford of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Megargel found the Catholic Church to be “a close-knit family,” and is now sponsored by her boyfriend’s sister.

“People want to say the Church is dying,” said Father Kyle Waltersheid, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls and Dean of the Northwest Deanery. “But the Church has always been dynamic by its essence because the Holy Spirit is always moving people, and so in that sense, it’s always growing.”

Lydia Root, an MSU student attending the Catholic Campus Center, fell in love with Adoration and the Eucharist after encountering her best friend's Catholicism. “There’s nothing comparable,” she said. “Going to Mass for the first time was scary because it’s overwhelming. You feel Jesus, and it’s almost too much. But this is it. I'm so excited to enter the Church. I cried the whole Mass today. I’m never going back — it’s just so good.”

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