By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — For Father Greg Steckel, his three young catechumens, sponsors and their families, the drive to Sacred Heart Cathedral from West Liberty was slow going due to snow and riding behind a snow plow. But most of the group, driving in two separate vehicles from St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty, made it on time Feb. 14 for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
“I felt this was an important step for them,” said Fr. Steckel, who had been checking the diocesan website earlier in the day to see if the event was still on. He carpooled with one group. “We had a great driver,” the priest said, pointing to one of his parishioners. Another group went to Muscatine first to pick up a sponsor. “They were late — but they made it and joined us.” Usually the drive from West Liberty to Davenport is around 45 minutes. It took the group 70 minutes to get to the cathedral.
All three candidates from St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt made it to the event. Their typical 25-minute drive to Davenport took 40 minutes. “We just took it a little slow,” said their pastor, Father Paul Connolly. “This was an important part of their faith journey.”
Most of those in attendance were from the metro Quad-City area. Deacon Frank Agnoli said many parishes called in throughout the morning and afternoon to cancel their participation because of the weather. So he adjusted seating and made new charts for the greeters to use in assisting attendees.
Around 350 candidates, catechumens, sponsors and family members were expected to attend. Around 150 made it to the event. Another celebration will be held Sunday, Feb. 21, at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa.
BreeAnna Mess said the snow wasn’t going to stop her. A catechumen from St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, she said she was excited to participate in the rite. “I didn’t think they would cancel it. I felt it would go on.” She said she grew up in a non-religious household, but her family did believe in God. She attended church with friends over the years and felt she had a great relationship with God. But she thought that at some point she would become a member of the Catholic Church.
When she and her fiancé, Mike Johnson, got engaged last April, the two sat down to discuss where they would get married and how they would raise the children they might have. “He wanted to get married at St. John Vianney and we both agreed we wanted to raise our children in the Catholic Church.” Mess decided it was the right time to join the church. “Today was a big step in my journey to the church,” she said. “It was an amazing experience to meet the bishop. My fiancé was excited, too.”
She anticipates being baptized, confirmed and receiving the Eucharist during the Easter Vigil. The couple plans to marry at St. John Vianney on Aug. 13.
Those preparing to enter the church are either candidates or catechumens. Candidates are individuals who have 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.
As Bishop Martin Amos headed to the ambo, he paused at the altar. When he stepped up to the ambo he said, “You thought I wasn’t going to preach — didn’t you!” The congregation laughed.
In his homily, Bishop Amos said, “All of us are on a journey. We travel together because of our faith in Christ. But at the same time, each of us has our own story and our own journey.” He noted that this journey is lifelong and does not end when the candidates and catechumens join the church.
“Today is a significant milestone in the journey. For you who are catechumens today marks the end of the catechumenate and you are to be the ‘elect’ of God. Hearing the testimony of your sponsors and catechists and your own reaffirmation of your intentions, the church makes its ‘election’ of you for the Easter sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist.
“This election is founded on your election by God in whose name the church acts today. All of us: the entire community surrounds you with our prayers so that the entire church may accompany and lead you to encounter Christ.
“Candidates, today you join with the rest of the baptized with a call to continuing conversion. Again it is part of a lifelong journey of rejecting sin, accepting God’s mercy and living faithfully as the body of Christ, the church.”
With the election and call to continued conversion, “we continue our faith journey as St. Paul said: ‘to receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification.’”
The bishop also said all of us continue our faith journey bringing God’s mercy to others.