By JOANNE FOX
Gathered for a communal picture, catechumens, candidates, godparents and family – associated with All Saints Parish in Le Mars – took up much of the Cathedral of the Epiphany altar area.
“We just have a lot of individuals who want to be part of the faith,” said Deacon Tom Henrich of Le Mars. “It’s quite gratifying.”
Father Mauro Sanchez, parochial vicar for the parish, agreed.
“I am working with those whose Spanish is their first language,” the priest said. “They really want things right in their lives.”
The 16 catechumens and candidates from All Saints were among about 100 individuals who participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults on March 5, held in two locations – an afternoon service at St. Mary Church in Storm Lake and an evening service at Cathedral of the Epiphany, Sioux City.
Bishop Walker Nickless presided at the bilingual services which included the Rite of Election of Catechumens and the Call to Continuing Conversion.
Catechumens, the unbaptized, were elected to become full members of the Catholic Church. They will be baptized and receive the other sacraments of full initiation – Communion and confirmation – at the Easter vigil in their home parishes. Those already baptized – called to continuing conversion – will also receive the sacraments of full initiation in their home parishes on Holy Saturday.
Bishop Nickless expressed his gratitude that so many were in attendance to celebrate the two rites.
“I just want to soothe your nerves,” he said in his introductory remarks at the cathedral. “I know you’re nervous today, but don’t worry.”
Then, the bishop declared to them, “There won’t be a test!” as the congregation chuckled out loud.
“Just be assured of our continued prayers for you on this journey,” he noted.
In his homily, Bishop Nickless referenced the readings from Scripture, which offered insights on the suffering of Jesus for his followers.
“In the first reading, we see Adam and Eve choosing evil over good,” he said. “Because that sin was so great, we needed Jesus to suffer for us.”
St. Paul in the second reading, shows us the way to salvation, Bishop Nickless noted.
“God sent us a savior, who is Jesus Christ,” he said. “The Gospel reading shows how Jesus, when tempted by the devil to see if he was strong enough to endure the pain and suffering at the end of his life, passed that test.”
The bishop continued, “We, too, have the power to say ‘no’ to the evil in our lives. The church gives us these readings to remind us the devil is still alive and living in our world today.”
Bishop Nickless voiced his appreciation to the candidates and the catechumens for saying “yes” to the Lord’s invitation to be in full communion with his church.
“Thank you for the choice you are making to follow Jesus in the Catholic Church,” he said. “Thank you for the example you give us of not being afraid to change and repent and grow closer to Christ.”
“They have found strength in God’s grace and support in our community’s prayers and example,” he said. “Now they ask that after the celebration of the scrutinies, they be allowed to participate in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.”
After being greeted by Bishop Nickless, the unbaptized signed the Book of Elect before taking their place in the sanctuary with their godparents.
Deacon Jorge Fernandez carried the Book of Elect to Bishop Nickless and he accepted the candidates.
“God is always faithful to those he calls: now it is your duty, as it is ours, to be faithful to him in return and to strive courageously to reach the fullness of truth, which your election opens up before you,” Bishop Nickless said.
Shellabarger next asked for the candidates “called to continuing conversion” to come forward.
“They too have found strength in God’s grace and support in our community’s prayers and example,” he said. “Now, they ask that after this Lenten season, they be admitted to confirmation and the Eucharist.”
Each candidate was greeted by Bishop Nickless. The sponsors and general assembly gave affirmation of the candidates to the bishop before he asked the individuals if they wished to continue the process of conversion.
“My friends, the church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s Eucharistic table,” he said. “Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”
As the service drew to a close, the bishop offered a prayer over the elect and candidates.
“Guide these chosen ones,” he prayed. “Strengthen them in their vocation, build them into the kingdom of your Son, and seal them with the spirit of your promise.”