Candidates, catechumens, friends fill cathedral twice for rites

Photo Caption: Bishop Jenky greets Christian Romo, preparing to be baptized with his mother, Annette, and three siblings at the Easter Vigil at Corpus Christi, Galesburg. Cynthia Edmonson does the introduction.

By: By Jennifer Willems

When she heard Jesus calling, Danielle Brandstatter of Granville was working as an assistant cook at Nazareth House in rural Henry. After witnessing the faith of the priests and seminarians at retreats, especially during eucharistic adoration, she discovered the Catholic Church and “a whole new world.”

Jesus turned Alex Miller’s life around at a TEC weekend in Peterstown and “opened my eyes to everything.” At about the same time Jesus drew the Mendota teen’s mother, Cindy Belan, to Cursillo and the answer she had been seeking: God.

All three came to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria for the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion last Sunday to thank Jesus for everything he has done in their lives. They are now making their final preparations to be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on April 23.

“Our local church is very happy today,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, said in greeting the catechumens and candidates, as well as their godparents, sponsors and families.

“Your witness, your faith, builds up the faith of this diocese and gives all of us hope in the promise of the future,” he said at ceremonies that filled the cathedral at 3:30 p.m. and again at 6 p.m.

The catechumens, those who will be baptized, were called forth first. Standing in the center aisle of the cathedral, they heard their godparents testify to their readiness to proceed to the Easter sacraments and the assembly’s assurance of prayers.

“Since you have already heard the call of Christ, you must now express your response to that call clearly and in the presence of the whole church,” Bishop Jenky told them. “Therefore, do you wish to enter fully into the life of the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist?”

After offering a resounding, “We do,” they were declared to be members of “the elect” by the bishop, who greeted each of them personally.

Then the candidates, those who are already baptized and want to complete their initiation, were called forward. Affirmed by their sponsors and supported by the assembly, they were recognized for their “desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s eucharistic table” by Bishop Jenky.

Coming to the front steps of the sanctuary, he also greeted them individually.

After each prayer service, Bishop Jenky stayed for photographs with the elect and the candidates and their families.

Alex Miller, 17, said that seeing all the people who are coming into the church was “awesome.”

“The coolest thing is that everyone is in here because of what one guy did,” he told The Catholic Post, referring to Jesus. While society sends a message that religion isn’t important, “this just proves that it’s never going to stop. Christ’s church is just going to keep growing.”

Miller has been part of the effort to keep the church strong since he made a Teens Encounter Christ weekend with his friend Konner Stremlau in February 2010. Since then he has been involved in presenting weekends for others, is a member of TEC Council at the Peterstown center, and actively recruits his classmates at Mendota High School for upcoming TEC weekends.

The Stremlaus were instrumental in fostering his faith and that of his mother, according to Miller. Konner’s mother, Karen, is Cindy Belan’s sponsor.

“Every Sunday we have church, then we go right over for RCIA. Then we go over to Karen’s house and have breakfast,” Miller said. “They’re our extended family. We spent Christmas at their house, we spent Thanksgiving there and this summer we’re going to Disney together.”

He credits TEC for giving him the guidance he was seeking for his life.
“Everything was up in the air. I couldn’t pinpoint anything,” he said. “There seemed to be this big void. Even if I was with friends I felt this aloneness.”
What TEC has provided is a loving community that helped him to get to know Christ.

“There is a God and he loves us all. It opened my eyes to everything,” Miller said.

“When I saw him at the TEC center, he was just lit up,” Belan said of her son’s weekend experience. “He said, ‘You know, Mom, I think this is something that would help you out, too.'”

Brought up in the Baptist church, Belan said she started going to a little Lutheran church when she got married but didn’t feel at home there either.

A single mother who works two jobs to make ends meet, she didn’t really want to take a weekend out for Cursillo, but went anyway and came back a different person.

“Now waking up the first person I think of is God,” she explained. “If you’re searching for something, God is a good answer. He has helped me in so many ways to grow in myself.

“I tell people not to think there’s no answer,” she said. “There’s always an answer in God.”

Belan said Cursillo, TEC and RCIA have strengthened her bond with Miller and his younger brother, Zachary Belan. The openness and caring of the people around them also has helped to create a lasting bond with their parish family at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Peterstown.

At the Easter Vigil their new family will be waiting to welcome them with open arms.

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