By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Thomas Boyd, an English and speech teacher at Burlington High School, traveled far more than 80 miles to participate in the Rite of Election at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Feb. 26. The 31-year-old’s journey to enter the Catholic Church began when he met his wife, Rachel, who is Catholic, but it took a detour to a 12-step recovery program to embrace his latent spiritualty. The invitation of a fellow teacher to participate in OCIA (Order of Christian Initiation of Adults) at Divine Mercy Parish in Burlington-West Burlington helped him to discover “the Church I was searching for my whole life,” he said. Rachel stood nearby, smiling warmly.
Boyd was one of 46 persons who entered the cathedral as catechumens preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. They left later that afternoon as “members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the Easter Vigil,” Bishop Zinkula declared during the Rite of Election Liturgy.
Children and adults among them, these newly elected members journeyed to the cathedral from parishes throughout the diocese, taking their designated pews and filling them with family members, friends, catechists and OCIA directors. The processional hymn, “You have called us,” underscored the theme of the day and its refrain echoed, “You have called us by name. We belong to you. You have called us by name and we are yours.”
That, in essence, is God’s dream for the Kingdom, the focus of Bishop Zinkula’s homily. God’s great dream for every Catholic Christian requires attention, nurturing and the support of a faith community. He began with an allegory about the devil attempting to make a deal with a young man — not for his soul but for his dream. The bishop likened that story to the Gospel story for the first Sunday in Lent (Matt. 4:1-11), when the devil attempts but fails to get Jesus to trade in his great dream — God’s dream of his Kingdom — for a little dream.
“Here’s a question to ponder this Lent. Am I dreaming God’s dream or my own? Am I dreaming a great dream or a little dream?” the bishop asked. It “isn’t too late to reclaim the dream God has planted in our minds, hearts and souls. Lent is a time to do that. It is a time to explore conversion in our lives.”
The bishop thanked God “we don’t have to face our temptations alone and we don’t have to dream alone. We have each other for strength and support. That’s the role of the Church, the role of a parish community — a faith community whose members support each other on their faith journeys. A group of people who reach out in love to those who are in need.”
“On your OCIA journey, you have been exposed to God’s dream,” he told the catechumens prior to the Rite of Election. “You have begun to walk in God’s presence, to share the company of your Christian brothers and sisters and to join them in prayer. The Rite of Election is a turning point, the final stage of intense preparation. When you are baptized at the Easter Vigil, you will renounce sin and profess your faith. You will become intentional disciples of Jesus Christ. You will name and claim God’s dream for yourselves.”
All of the faithful, including the fully initiated, are preparing to “renew our baptismal promises at Easter, to reclaim our discipleship in Jesus Christ, to recommit ourselves to our Catholic Church family, to intensify our efforts to dream God’s dream,” the bishop said. “And to help each other keep God’s dream alive.”
During the Celebration of the Election, the godparents and then the assembly affirmed their support for the elect, who confirmed their desire to enter fully into the Church through the sacraments of initiation. A representative from each parish stood in the cathedral’s aisles and raised for all to see their parish’s Book of the Elect, containing the names of the newly enrolled.
Bishop Zinkula declared them members of the elect, prayed over them and then dismissed them to reflect more deeply on the word of God. Tammy Norcross-Reitzler, campus minister for St. Ambrose University in Davenport led the elect in breaking open the Word.
“My favorite thing is journeying with people as they prepare for the Easter sacraments,” she told them. In small groups, they pondered sin in their lives and the ways in which to maintain right
relationship with God. Their discussions led to and exploration of Bishop Zinkula’s homily. “What do you think God’s dream is — if that’s the dream we’re going to follow?” Norcross-Reitzler asked. Answers ranged from fostering peace to ending oppression and discrimination to helping others in need to looking beyond one’s self.
“The challenge,” Norcross-Reitzler pointed out, will be “keeping the dream alive after your baptism. We need each other to keep the dream alive.” Among the people and things they plan to seek out for support are family and friends, remembering Jesus’ presence in their midst, the Catholic community, Catholic schools and devotional materials. “The whole Church is praying for you,” Norcross-Reitzler told the gathering. “I hope you feel the love and support of the Catholic Church.”
Lunch followed the reflection session after which liturgical design consultant Gale Francione gave a presentation on the cathedral. Rosina Hendrickson of Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago guided the elect through mystagogy, unpacking the rite they celebrated earlier that day. She asked them to reflect on the opening procession of the Mass, the entrance song and the rite itself.
Bishop Zinkula, having learned that there were mothers-to-be in the gathering, gave a special blessing to them. Mid-afternoon prayer concluded this day of welcoming and formation.
Like Thomas Boyd, the journey to the Catholic Church has been a long one for Timothy Terhaar, a law school student at the University of Iowa. He is preparing to enter the Catholic Church at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City. His journey began as a teenager, when “my life was hollow at the core,” he said. He began studying various religions, particularly Eastern religions, but came to embrace the Catholic Church fully. The faith community has been an important part of the journey, he said. “You can’t live faith outside of community.”
Leyna Dahlinghaus, a wife and mother of four young children, belongs to Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire with her family. Her husband, Mike, who is Catholic, invited her to consider the possibility of joining the Church. She decided the decision had to be heart-led. “I didn’t just want to check a box,” she said. Now is the time. “It’s been the best decision for me.” Her pastor and deacon have been wonderful, she said. The sense of community is an important factor. She is starting a mom’s group with two other mothers in her parish. “It’s been really nice meeting women I can relate to on a deeper level.”