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BOSTON -- Hundreds of people gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on March 1 for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. These ceremonies are some of the last steps for catechumens, who have never been baptized, and candidates, who are Christian but not Catholic, to prepare for entry into the Catholic Church.
It was the first time these rites took place in the cathedral since it reopened a year ago following major renovations. The cathedral accommodated the 268 catechumens and 169 candidates along with their catechists, godparents, sponsors, and families.
Cardinal Seán O'Malley presided over the celebration, which included a bilingual Liturgy of the Word. In his homily, he welcomed and expressed prayerful support for the catechumens and candidates.
"We give thanks to God that he has led you on this path and has brought you to be part of our spiritual family. We are blessed to receive you, and we assure you of our prayers and our best wishes," he said.
Cardinal O'Malley said that in cathedrals throughout the United States, about 40,000 people were participating in the Rite of Election that day.
"Our prayer is they will truly find a spiritual home in our Church," he said.
He called Lent a "baptismal retreat" and an "invitation to come home."
After his homily, the catechumens and their catechists and godparents were called forward for the Rite of Election. The catechists carried their Books of the Elect containing the names of their community's catechumens.
In response to Cardinal O'Malley's questions, the godparents affirmed the catechumens' readiness to become Catholic, and the catechumens expressed their desire to enter fully into the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist. The catechists held up their Books of the Elect for the cardinal to see. Cardinal O'Malley then declared the catechumens members of the elect, to be initiated into the Church and participate in the sacraments at the Easter Vigil.
Next, the candidates came forward with their sponsors for the Call to Continuing Conversion. Cardinal O'Malley questioned the candidates, who affirmed that they had come to a deeper appreciation of their baptism, reflected on the tradition of the Church, joined other Catholics in prayer, and advanced in a life of service. The cardinal recognized their desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and invited them to join in the repentant spirit of Lent and be faithful to the covenant of their baptism.
During the Rite of Election and Call for Continuing Conversion, Cardinal O'Malley asked the assembly if they would support the catechumens' and candidates' testimony and include them in their prayers, to which the faithful assented.
After the two ceremonies, the assembly interceded for the elect and the candidates as well as their godparents and sponsors.
For Christine Mancuso, a catechist from St. Francis Parish in Dracut, the Rite of Election held special meaning, since she went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) herself.
"I was here in the cathedral many, many years ago. And I know it's something that I always remember. This is a wonderful group of people I've been working for, and I hope it's something they always remember. It is a very special day. I'm so happy for all of them," Mancuso said, speaking to The Pilot after the event.