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MALDEN -- Hundreds of future Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston declared their intention to be received into the Church at Easter during special ceremonies held Feb. 18, the first Sunday of Lent, at Immaculate Conception Church in Malden.
A total of 475 catechumens and candidates gathered at the church for the Rite of the Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, which, in order to accommodate the large number of people, saw two celebrations presided over by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, one at 1:30 p.m. and one at 4 p.m.
During each celebration, catechumens -- those who have never been baptized -- participated in the Rite of Election, while candidates -- those who are Christian but not Catholic -- participated in the Call to Continuing Conversion.
While typically held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the celebrations were held at Immaculate Conception Church due to ongoing renovations at the cathedral.
In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley welcomed the candidates and catechumens, and thanked their sponsors and godparents, as well as priests, religious, deacons, RCIA coordinators, and family who have offered them guidance.
"We see our new Catholics as God's gift to us, and we are so grateful that you have responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to join our Church," he said.
"New Catholics who join us on this pilgrimage bring us many spiritual gifts that enrich our community," he continued. "In the history of Catholicism, so often it's the so-called converts, the new Catholics that have brought energy and compassion to the mission of the Church."
"We all look forward to Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil, when you will be received into the Church," said the cardinal.
During the two celebrations, catechumens affirmed their desire to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist; while the candidates expressed their desire to complete their Christian initiation and be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
After the Liturgy of the Word, Cardinal O'Malley called forward the catechumens and their godparents. He questioned the godparents as to the catechumens' readiness to become Catholic before asking the catechumens if they are ready to enter fully into the life of the Church.
Responding in the affirmative, the catechumens were then asked to sign their names in the Book of the Elect. They were then declared members of the elect by the cardinal, and he asked of the godparents to continue their "loving care and example."
Cardinal O'Malley then asked the candidates to come forward and questioned them on how they have deepened their appreciation of their baptismal call, deepened their service to others, and reflected on the Church's tradition.
The cardinal recognized their desire to be part of the Catholic Church, and called on the sponsors to continue their support "with your guidance and concern."
Speaking to The Pilot following the 1:30 p.m. celebration, candidate Clint Jennings from Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham said he was inspired to takes steps to join the Church by his "wonderful fiancee," a lifelong Catholic who has a "very well-established faith."
"She really has been a great help for me in guiding me into the Catholic Church so far," Jennings said.
He described the support of the "RCIA family and the rest of the parishioners at Our Lady's in Waltham," saying that they have "all been very supportive, and they've helped guide me through this wonderful process."
The day was "the culmination of a lot of preparation," he said. "It was great to see all the different people from all walks of life, all the different ages. God welcomes everyone."