Church Welcomes 96 People Preparing to Become Catholic

Like a heaven-bound march of saints, a column of adults, adolescents, and children processed down the aisle of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown, on the First Sunday of Lent. Seventy-eight catechumens and their godparents comprised the assembly, which had gathered to celebrate the Rite of Election.

The Rite of Election marks the final stage of preparation for the catechumens, who have, of their own free will, chosen to become members of the Catholic Church. The word "catechumen" comes from the Greek word meaning "one being instructed," signifying the catechumens' status as learners in matters of faith.

Presiding was Bishop Alfred Schlert, who assured the assembly that "God is always faithful to those whom he calls."

"Now it is your duty, as it is ours, both to be faithful to Him in return, and to strive courageously to reach the fullness of truth, which your election opens up before you."

The "fullness of truth," which subsists only in the Catholic Church, is evidenced by a correct and complete confession of faith and a full sacramental life. Catechumens who have undergone the Rite of Election are declared members of "the elect," and as such, are ready to make a life-long commitment as Catholics.

Nearly 150 of the faithful – catechists, family members, and friends of the catechumens – were present for the rite, which was celebrated in both English and Spanish. This year, the official number of catechumens in the Allentown Diocese was 96.

While the Diocesan and Cathedral Choirs sang, Lauda Ierusalem (Praise Jerusalem), a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and more than a dozen priests and deacons preceded Bishop Schlert into the cathedral. After the proclamation of the Gospel, the actual Celebration of Election began, with the reading aloud of the names and parishes of the catechumens by Father Keith Mathur, Diocesan Chancellor and Director of the Office of Divine Worship.

Having ascertained the preparedness of the catechumens during the Affirmation by Godparents and the Assembly, Bishop Schlert turned to the catechumens themselves.

"Your own godparents and teachers and this entire community have spoken in your favor," he told them. "The Church in the name of Christ accepts their judgment."

Assisted by Father Allen Hoffa, pastor of Holy Guardian Angels in Reading, and Father Mark Searles, Diocesan Director of Vocations, the catechumens were invited to write their names in the Book of the Elect. This step, called the Enrollment of Names, represents the catechumens' pledge of fidelity and marks the end of their formation period, or catechumenate.

"My brothers and sisters, I now declare you to be members of the elect," announced the Bishop, "to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil."

After the Bishop's pronouncement, intercessions for the elect were offered, ending with the Prayer Over the Elect.

The faithful will continue to pray for the elect during the Lenten season, which is a period of study and spiritual direction for those who will be receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil Mass.

During this "final phase of your journey toward your entrance into the Church," said Bishop Schlert, "may your hearts be open to the salvation which Jesus offers you through the Church. Know of the love the Catholic community has for you. Embrace the teachings of the faith with humility. Trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And may your commitment deepen as you prepare to enter the fullness of the Christian life in the Catholic Church."

After the Rite of Election, catechumens, sponsors, and their families were invited to join Bishop Schlert for a social gathering in the Parish Activity Center located in the Cathedral basement. During the event, they had the opportunity to take pictures with Bishop and some catechumens shared their experiences of joining the Church.

Joshua Riemanschneider remarked that he felt nervous and excited for his future. Joshua's family is not Catholic, and he considered himself an atheist during middle school. However, after meeting his friend Shane McKevitt, who is now his sponsor, and attending Kutztown University’s Catholic Campus Ministry, Joshua's spiritual journey took a significant turn. “I started going to Mass and wanted to become Catholic from there,” he explained. Joshua is now eager to receive the Sacraments.

Colton and Cayla Piccolo endured a difficult journey of waiting and praying for a child, which brought them closer to God. Despite not professing a specific faith at first, Colton found his way to the Catholic Church after the conception of their daughter. In gratitude for her life, Colton and Cayla gave their daughter the Hebrew name Khaia, meaning “life”. Colton and Khaia will both joyfully receive the Sacraments during the Easter Vigil. "This is a special time for us as a family," Colton shared. "I want Khaia to remember the closeness of family, friends, and everyone in the Church." They are excited to embark on this meaningful journey together.

Photos by Norm Steinruck.


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