This past weekend was the First Sunday in Lent. Now, if you are not a Catholic, or not a 'practicing' Catholic, this might not be significant to you. But for those who practice, this is BIG!
At my parish, we normally hold the 'Rite of Election and 'Rite of Called to Continuing Conversion' at the parish. We are in a snow area, and it's usually not convenient to drive to Bend (3 hours away), where the Diocesan Offices are located, or Baker City (6 hours away), which is where the Diocesan Cathedral is located.
The 'Rite of Election' is for those who are unbaptized, and are elected by GOD to join the Church. Note that they are not elected by the people, but by God. He picks, not us! The 'Rite of Called to Continuing Conversion' is for those who are baptized in another tradition (but, by virtue of their Baptism, are already one with us in the Christian Faith) who state in the presence of the Catholic Community, that their intent is to join with the Catholic Church. This is usually a very moving celebration.
This year, we have a new Director of Evangelization and Catechesis...and more importantly, a new Bishop. It really is the job of the Bishop to conduct the Rite of Welcome...although, it can take place in the parish.
I called our new Director a couple of months ago and casually asked if Bishop was planning a group 'Rite of Election' for the Diocese, since the previous Bishop and Administrator had chosen to not offer this Rite.
Barry, our Director, was a little startled, I think- he probably assumed that it would happen since he himself is a convert. (a 'Convert' is someone who moves from unbelief to belief--not a Christian who chooses a different denomination)
He went and lobbied for this idea, and voila! We had a Rite of Election for the Diocese of Baker planned on the First Sunday of Lent midway through the Diocese!
We had some unusual circumstances- one of our 'Catechumen's' (unbaptized) is a fireman...you can just imagine how difficult it is to make a weekly meeting at the same time for the RCIA so we have been creative with him...and his Sponsor is a fireman, too! I am so proud of both of them- they got off work at 7AM on Saturday and picked up their families and drove the 3 hours to Redmond, Oregon! They also had to be back at work at 7AM on Sunday, so this was really important to them! You can see them in the far left part of the photo- the two tallest dudes...
Our other Catechumen had a sick child and couldn't make the trip. It's OK, the Bishop also blessed her and greeted her by name- even if she wasn't able to be at the event!!!
Our Candidate was very awed by the beautiful ceremony....you can't see her, but she and her 'proxy' sponsor are on the far right! They are tall, so they are a little hidden :)
This was a very beautiful and solemn event. yes, I did 'boo-hoo' a bit. It reminded me of the many times we have done the Rite of Election at Sacred Heart in the middle of a snow storm over the past 7 years I've been at Sacred Heart!
St. Thomas Parish also hosted a wonderful lunch in their parish halll! It was wonderful and we are very blessed that they opened their parish doors to be hospitable to our soon-to-be-Catholics!
The funniest moment was when one of our youth ministry students (he's a freshmen) walked boldly up to the Bishop and said, "um, hey yah, hi, my name is..." It was funny! He wasn't quite sure how to address the Bishop, but he was determined to talk to him...and then, he said, 'can I serve the Easter Vigil Mass?? and the Confirmation Mass". LOVE that kid!!