You are now ‘members of the elect’

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Anne Marie Amacher
Kamryn McDonald holds a candle as Stuart Wood lights it and Wade Carter watches. The three are candidates to enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil this year and are discerning their faith journey through St. Mary Parish and the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — “I am blessed to be here,” Mary Ruth Mansfield of St. Mary Parish in Pella told The Catholic Messenger following the Rite of Election at Sacred Heart Cathedral Feb. 18. She and 60 others participated in the rite as catechumens (individuals awaiting the sacrament of baptism) and left the cathedral as members of the elect.

Another 57 catechumens who were unable to make it to the cathedral became members of the elect in their parishes, and will also enter the Church during the Easter Vigil March 30. In addition, approximately 112 candidates (baptized individuals awaiting the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist), will enter the Church this year.

While traveling to the diocesan-wide liturgy, Mansfield said she read a copy of The Catholic Messenger to learn more about the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Davenport. When she and the other members of the elect left the liturgy to “break open the Word,” their godparents, families and friends remained in the cathedral as Mass continued, followed by adoration. “I could feel the support and felt uplifted on this journey,” Mansfield said. To know that those in the church were praying for the elect made her feel especially welcome.

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Wade Carter of the St. Mary Parish-Newman Catholic Student Center group in Iowa City described the Rite of Election as a “wonderful experience.” The liturgy’s symbols inspired him. When parish leaders held up the Book of the Elect, “it was so cool to see,” he said. “There is such devotion to God and the community of the Diocese of Davenport.”

Diocesan Administrator Father Ken Kuntz presided at the liturgy and later at mid-afternoon prayer. During the presentation of the catechumens, Deacon Jeff Schuetzle confirmed to Father Kuntz that the catechumens were completing their period of preparation. “Now they ask that after the celebration of the scrutinites, they be allowed to participate in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.”  Father Kuntz responded, “Let those who are to be chosen as the elect, stand as their name is called.”

As parish representatives read the names of the 61 catechumens in attendance, each one stood. Father Kuntz asked the godparents to stand and to affirm that the catechumens had prepared for enrollment among the elect. The godparents responded, “They have.” Speaking to the entire assembly, Father Kuntz asked if they were willing to support the catechumens in faith, prayer and example as they prepare for the Easter sacraments. The assembly responded, “We are.”

During the invitation and enrollment of names, Father Kuntz asked the catechumens if they desired to enter the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eu­char­ist. They responded, “We do.” “Then let their names be offered for enrollment,” Father Kuntz said.

Parish representatives stood in the aisles and held open the Book of the Elect for all to see.

“My brothers and sisters, I declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the Easter Vigil,” Father Kuntz said during the Act of Election. The assembly applauded.

The elect left the liturgy following intercessions for them and prayers for all preparing to enter the Church. The organist played the opening song, “You Have Called Us” as the elect headed to their catechetical lesson in the Great Hall.

Tammy Norcross-Reitzler, director of campus ministry at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, led the session for the adult elect and Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, led a separate session for youths under age 18. Norcross-Reitzler asked the elect to introduce themselves at their tables and share what drew them to the Catholic Church.

Several young adults engaged to be married said they felt called to join the Church after attending Mass with their future spouses who are practicing Catholics. Two University of Iowa students said they felt a connection to the Church after friends invited them to the Newman Catholic Student Center. One elect, married to a Catholic for decades, has attended Mass all those years and decided it was time to join. Another member of the elect has attended Mass for years and decided “It’s time to come home.”

Anne Marie Amacher
Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, talks with youths who will enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.

The elect discussed the day’s Scripture readings and their relevance in their own lives. Sister Demmer told the youths that each Sunday is a celebration of Easter, of Christ rising from the dead for the people of God. She asked if anyone had given up something for Lent. One teen said she gave up listening to music on her 20-minute drive each way to and from school. “It’s hard at times,” she said.

After lunch, Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of liturgy, led a session on mystagogy — an intentional reflection on the rites just celebrated and what difference they will make in participants’ lives.

He asked the elect to remember that the Rite of Election is not another check mark off the list. “Remember what happened. Remember what you experienced.” The elect reflected on what happened earlier that day and about the journey ahead: the “what,” “so what” and “now what” discernment of faith.

Everyone returned to the cathedral church for mid-afternoon prayer and afterwards had the opportunity to tour the cathedral and learn more about its history.


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