Catechumens, candidates find support on their faith journey

Photo Caption: Father Antonio Dittmer, pastor of St. Hyacinth and St. Patrick in LaSalle, introduces Maricela Escobedo to Bishop Jenky during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion on March 9.

By: By Jennifer Willems

As Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, reached out to clasp the hand of another person preparing to enter the Catholic Church this Easter at St. Jude Parish in Peoria, he looked up at Matt Eppel and asked, “How many did you bring with you?”

The RCIA coordinator’s answer gave Bishop Jenky 21 reasons to smile during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion last Sunday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. Even more people are expected this Sunday, March 16, when the ceremony will be celebrated again.

This year parishes reported that they would be bringing 115 catechumens (those who haven’t been baptized) and 236 candidates (those who are seeking to complete their Christian initiation) to the Rites of Election.

“We welcome those called to the Easter sacraments. We welcome those brother and sister Christians who are entering into communion with the Holy Catholic Church,” Bishop Jenky said as he greeted the catechumens and candidates, their sponsors, members of their RCIA teams, and their families at the beginning of the afternoon prayer service on March 9.

“The world may not believe that this cathedral is filled twice with those eager for the Easter sacraments, but God knows and this local church rejoices,” he said.

At the Rite of Election, the godparents of those who will be baptized are asked to affirm that these men, women and children are ready to proceed to the Easter Vigil. After this testimony and the assurance of prayer from the rest of the assembly, the catechumens are declared to be members of “the elect.”

“God is always faithful to those 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 bishop told them.

He also recognized the desire of the candidates “to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s Eucharistic table.”
“Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance,” Bishop Jenky said. “Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”

For some time the bishop has said that he hoped parishes would work together on religious formation programs, including the RCIA process, and that could be seen this year with parish clusters brought together through the Growing in Faith Together process.

Corpus Christi, Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Patrick in Galesburg, Sacred Heart in Abingdon, and St. Aloysius in Wataga are in their second year of collaborating and have joint sessions each Thursday night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Cynthia Edmonson of Corpus Christi said presentations are made by the priests, deacons and catechists from each parish and it’s “working well.”

Eppel said he reached out to St. Jude’s sister parishes, St. Vincent de Paul in Peoria and St. Edward in Chillicothe, to see how they do things and made some changes in how he worked with the four catechumens and 17 candidates at St. Jude as a result. He even ventured off parish grounds to bring the group to St. Mary’s Cathedral for a session.

“We have a lot of good folks working together,” he told The Catholic Post.
Jordan Hansen, 16, who will be baptized with her sister Jacee, 15, at the Easter Vigil at St. Jude, appreciates the hard work done by Eppel, the RCIA team, Father Patrick Henehan, pastor, and Father Adam Stimpson, parochial vicar. A sophomore at Peoria Notre Dame High School, she’s looking forward to receiving Communion with her classmates at school Masses.

“They think it’s awesome,” she said.

Jacee, a freshman, can’t wait for her baptism and said her friends from Peoria Notre Dame want to come to the Easter Vigil and be part of the celebration.

Until then, they have very special souvenirs from the Rite of Election to sustain them — “selfies” with Bishop Jenky and his blessing.

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