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Boston parking woes cause cancellation of Rite of Election at cathedral

Catechumens write their names in the Book of the Elect at the 2014 Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. This year's ceremony, which was to be held Feb. 22 was cancelled due to Boston's snow-choked roads. Pilot file photo/Christopher S. Pineo

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SOUTH END -- Behemoth snow piles, narrowed streets and nearly non-existent parking in Boston's South End caused the cancellation of the Feb. 22 liturgy at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for those in the process of becoming Catholic.

Traditionally held on the First Sunday of Lent, the liturgy, called the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion, brings together those who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church at Easter for a ceremony with the archbishop in the cathedral. For many, it is their first experience of the mother church of the archdiocese.

Last year, 650 new Catholics participated in the rite at the cathedral.

According to Father Jonathan Gaspar, who serves as the director of the archdiocese's Office for Worship, gathering such a large number of people at the cathedral wouldn't have been possible.

"Our streets are narrow, and there is no on-street parking because of the snow banks and neighborhood cars that have been buried under snow for weeks. Our parking lot is also temporarily closed for construction, making the parking situation a nightmare," said Father Jonathan Gaspar, director of the archdiocese's Office for Worship.

Complicating the matter, the busses used by many parishes to bring people to the rite would likely not be able to pass through many of the narrowed South End streets.

According to the notice send out by the archdiocese's website, canceled the rite in the interest of the safety and well-being of attendees.

"We're currently working with local businesses to secure parking for future Cathedral events, while our parking lot is closed. We are hopeful that by Holy Week most of the snow will have melted and that we will have other parking venues available for those who wish to come to the cathedral for the liturgies of Holy Week," Father Gaspar said.

But before the snows begin to melt and Holy Week arrives, catechumens must still continue their entry into the Church as part of the Lenten season. According to the archdiocese, participation in the Rite of Election does not affect the validity of the Sacraments of Initiation. To facilitate the continuation of the necessary rites Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley will grant delegation to priests who request to celebrate the Rite of Election in their parishes for those preparing to enter the Church on Easter this year.

During the Rite of the Election, those who are not baptized -- called catechumens -- are joined by their godparents as they declare their intention to enter the Church and receive the sacraments of initiation. They then symbolically inscribe their name in the Book of the Elect.

During the Call to Continuing Conversion, candidates -- those who are Christian but not Catholic -- present themselves with their sponsors who attest that they have been properly prepared to enter into full communion with the Church. The candidates then receive a blessing and are urged to begin a special time of deep spiritual preparation and repentance as they await their reception into the Church.

"Parishes have contacted us and expressed their gratitude for the decision to allow the parish priests delegation to celebrate the Rite of Election in the parishes. Transporting large groups of parishioners to the Cathedral, even under normal weather conditions, can be difficult. Parking is often hard to find in the city," Father Gaspar said.

The cardinal has also extended a special invitation for catechumens and candidates to join him at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for the Pentecost Vigil Mass at 4:00 pm on Saturday, May 23.

"The cardinal is united in prayer with those who are preparing to receive the Sacraments at Easter. He is disappointed that he will not be able to greet them this Sunday for the Rite of Election. He invites them all to join him for the Vigil of Pentecost on Saturday, May 23 at the Cathedral. Hopefully by then there will be no snow on the ground -- only spring," Father Gaspar said.

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