By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Five-hundred adults and children representing three different stages on their journey of faith gathered March 10 at St. Patrick Catholic Church to celebrate the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
Sixty-four of them arrived as catechumens, individuals who have not yet been baptized. During the liturgy, they became the elect, accepting the call to continuing conversion. They will receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil.
Seventy-five arrived as candidates, individuals who have already been baptized and are now preparing to receive the sacraments of confirmation and/or Eucharist or reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.
Many of the others arrived as fully initiated members of the Catholic Church, preparing to celebrate the paschal mystery, the dying and rising of Christ. They will renew their baptismal promise at the Easter Vigil.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the liturgy, which drew the faithful from throughout the Diocese of Davenport. Their reasons for choosing to move forward in their journey to the Catholic Church are varied.
Lynn and Monica Harter, both 36, of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa said they first stepped foot in a Catholic Church last year and have fallen in love with the liturgy and church. They look forward to being able to receive the sacraments of initiation.
Twenty-year-old Josh Simms, who is attending mortuary school, became fascinated with the Catholic Church while assisting with funerals at various local churches in the Albia area. Now he’s preparing to enter the church at St. Mary Parish in Albia.
Matthew Clark, a newlywed living in Clinton, is preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church through Prince of Peace Parish to share the faith of his wife, Emily.
Bishop Zinkula wondered how he’d preach to such a diverse group. He chose to use the church’s marriage imagery as a metaphor. “We view our relationship with God as a love affair. Isaiah says ‘Your husband is your maker; the Lord of hosts is his name.’ God is the groom; we are his bride.”
The period of inquiry for catechumens, he said, is like dating. “It’s time to get to know Jesus. You can’t love what you don’t know.” During the Rite of Acceptance, catechumens made a choice to go “steady” by entering the Period of Catechumenate. The Rite of Elect could be described as an “engagement.” That’s when preparation to receive the sacraments intensifies. The Easter Vigil, like a wedding, is the time when the elect or candidate makes a total commitment to Jesus Christ, the bridegroom.
For fully initiated Catholics, Lent can be compared to a marriage retreat. Over the course of the weekend, couples take a close, honest look at their marriage and how to make a good marriage even better. Or perhaps the couple is struggling with faith and needs an extra boost to give it one last chance.
“All of us have given into temptation and sinned. Some of us simply desire to repent of our sins and enter more deeply into our love affair with God,” the bishop said. “Others of us are really struggling in our relationship with God.”
Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving – whether preparing to publicly profess faith for the first time or to renew their baptismal promises, the faithful recommit themselves to Jesus Christ and the truths of the faith. “By means of his suffering and death on the cross, Jesus loved us into new life,” the bishop said. “During this Lenten season, may God fill our minds with his love and expand our hearts to share his love with others.”
Following his homily, the catechumens were presented to the bishop. He shook each one’s hand and shared his encouragement. The bishop asked the godparents to stand and to affirm that the catechumens were sufficiently prepared to be enrolled among the elect for the celebration of Easter. Then he addressed the catechumens, asking whether they wish to enter fully into the life of the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. “We do,” they responded.
Candidates were also presented to the bishop, who shook hands with each one and shared his encouragement. He asked their sponsors to stand and to affirm that the candidates have reflected sufficiently on the tradition of the church and are ready to share fully in the church’s sacraments. He asked the assembly whether they were willing to support the candidates in prayer and example.
Bishop Zinkula told the candidates that the church “recognizes your desire to be sealed with the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s table. “Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant,” he said.
The candidates and the elect gathered in the sanctuary where the bishop asked God to “Guide these chosen ones: strengthen them in their vocation, build them into the kingdom of your Son, and seal them with the Spirit of promise. Through Christ our Lord.”