Rite of Election fills cathedral with joy twice as Lent begins

By: By Jennifer Willems, The Catholic Post

The cross wasn’t the only thing lifted high during two celebrations of the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion as Lent began.

Hearts and voices were also raised on Feb. 17 and 24 as nearly 400 people who are preparing to be received into the Catholic Church at Easter were welcomed to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. Joined by their sponsors, godparents and RCIA team members, these catechumens and candidates were greeted personally by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, whose broad smile said more than words ever could.

“This is the continuing renewal of the church,” he told The Catholic Post after all the parish groups had come forward to pose for photos with him in the cathedral sanctuary. “Year after year large numbers come to be baptized and large numbers come to be received” into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

Not only are these among the happiest occasions at St. Mary’s Cathedral, he said, but presiding over the Rite of Election is a great privilege.

“It builds up my faith every year,” Bishop Jenky said.

At the Rite of Election, the godparents of those who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil affirm that the catechumens have “faithfully listened to God’s word proclaimed by the church” and have “responded to that word and begun to walk in God’s presence.” In addition, the people around them promise to support them in “prayer and affection.”

After this testimony is given and the catechumens have expressed their desire to proceed to the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, they are declared to be members of “the elect.”

Candidates are those who have been baptized, but have not completed their Christian initiation through the sacraments of confirmation and/or Eucharist. Bishop Jenky called them to continuing conversion as members of the body of Christ.

As Judy Martin waited for the catechumens and candidates from St. Philomena’s Parish in Peoria to arrive on Feb. 24, she said this year’s journey toward Easter has been filled with blessings.

“We prayed a novena as a parish staff and had 40 attend the first meeting,” she said, noting that 20 would be taking part in the Rite of Election that afternoon.

Among them are Janette Ackerman and her daughter Alysa, a sophomore at Peoria Notre Dame High School, and son, Adison, a fourth-grader at St. Philomena’s School. Husband Adam Ackerman was raised Catholic, but had been away from the church for a time.

Adam and Janette credit their children for bringing them to the Catholic Church.

“We were looking at high schools for Alysa and when we took her to Notre Dame she fell in love,” Adam explained. Shortly after that, they were told there was an opening for Adison at St. Philomena’s School.

Janette was a Methodist and had been very strong in her faith, but liked the traditions and teaching authority of the Catholic Church.

“She said if we were going to do it, we should all hold hands and jump in together,” Adam said.

“I’m looking forward to Communion — that’s the part I miss the most,” Janette said. “That’s been an integral part of my faith journey. I hunger for that.”

“I’m looking forward to all of us being together,” said Adam, whose journey home involved the sacrament of reconciliation. The Ackermans, who own nine Subway restaurants in Peoria, will have their marriage blessed on March 9.

Adison is looking forward to being an altar server next year and is already interested in the priesthood.

“I swear, the adoration chapel does us more good,” Martin said with a smile.

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