By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — More than 200 men, women and children are expected to enter the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Davenport this Easter. As their journey continues this Lent, they will mark several milestones.
First, parishes celebrate the Rite of Sending in order to support, encourage and officially ask that their catechumens be elected for the Easter sacraments and that the Church pray for the catechumens and candidates. This occurs the weekend that the catechumens and candidates participate in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
Some candidates and catechumens participated in this special ceremony Sunday, Feb. 26, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport with Bishop Martin Amos presiding, while others will participate in the ceremony Sunday, March 4, at St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Ottumwa. Father Patrick Hilgendorf, dean of the Ottumwa Deanery, will preside at the March 4 ceremony because Bishop Amos is traveling to the Vatican for a visit required of all diocesan bishops every five years.
Those preparing to enter the Church are either candidates or catechumens. Candidates are individuals who have already been validly baptized in the Catholic Church or another Christian denomination and are preparing to receive the sacraments of Eucharist and confirmation. Catechumens will receive all three sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.
“The Rite of Election is a beautiful ceremony marking the beginning of a period of purification and enlightenment for our catechumens. It also has the themes of repentance and renewal for the entire community. It is a special time for those preparing for baptism and is a reminder for those of us already baptized,” Bishop Amos said in his homily. “So, for all here today — the catechumens, the candidates and the whole community — it is a particular time for spiritual recollection in preparation for the Easter sacraments.”
He noted that the candidates already share with the Catholic Church the precious bond of baptism. “We look forward to share with you at the table of the Lord. May this season be a blessed one of recommitment and renewal for you.”
Following his homily, the catechumens were presented. A representative from each parish read the names of the catechumens, who stood and responded, “present.” The catechumens came forward with their sponsors to be introduced to the bishop. The sponsors affirmed that the catechumens have listened to and begun to respond to God’s Word. The assembly affirmed that it is willing to support the catechumens in faith, prayer and example. After signing each parish’s Book of the Elect, Bishop Amos declared the catechumens have been chosen for the Easter sacraments. They are now called the elect.
Then representatives from the parishes announced candidates’ names and they answered, “present.” They approached the bishop with their sponsors, who affirmed that the candidates have come to a deeper appreciation of their baptism and have reflected on the tradition of the Church. The assembly affirmed the testimony and pledged support. Intercession, prayer and concluding rites followed.
The next rite for the candidates is the Penitential Rite, which recognizes those individuals who have already been baptized in the Christian faith. The church community prays for their ongoing conversion of heart.
On the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, the Church celebrates the scrutinies of the elect. Each of the scrutinies is intended to “uncover and heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect, and to bring out and strengthen all that is upright, strong and good,” said Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s director of liturgy.
This is also a time to pray for the elect, who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil. “We pray that any attachment to evil might be removed, and that they be truly converted to Christ,” he noted.
During the third and fifth weeks of Lent, respectively, the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are “handed over” (in Latin, traditio) to the elect. They “hand back” the creed on Holy Saturday before the Vigil. They pray the Lord’s Prayer for the first time that night.