500 prepare to enter Catholic Church at Easter

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley presided over the annual Rite of Election of catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of candidates Feb. 10 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for more than 500 people preparing for reception into the Church.

The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is a component of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and is one of the final steps towards becoming a full, participating member of the Catholic Church. Catechumens -- those never baptized -- and candidates -- those baptized in other Christian religions -- will receive the sacraments of initiation and be welcomed into the Church at this year’s Easter Vigil.

Because of the large number of participants, the rite for those from parishes in the West and North regions of the archdiocese was held at 1:30 p.m. while the rite for those from the South, Central and Merrimack regions was held at 4 p.m.

“We are grateful to God that he has led you here,” the cardinal said in his remarks at the earlier celebration.

Similar services were being held at cathedrals all over the country with more than 150,000 individuals entering into full communion with the Catholic Church this year, he said.

Two hundred years ago, the archdiocese was founded by two priests escaping the French Revolution, the cardinal said, adding that all the Catholics in Boston at the time could have fit into the cathedral.

“Now, there are two million Catholics, 150 schools, six hospitals, 300 parishes, five catholic colleges and two seminaries,” he said. “But, don’t worry. You don’t have to learn all our names. We are the saints and sinners in the Church founded by Jesus Christ and whose apostles were our first bishops.”

There is no single motivation for the participants, who are beginning their formal process of becoming Catholic or of completing the sacraments of initiation, said Father Brian E. Mahoney, the director of the Office of Worship, whose staff organized the rites held on the first Sunday of Lent.

Father Mahoney said, “For the vast majority, they are doing it because they felt that calling from God to explore their relationship with him.”

Sitting in front of the altar, the cardinal called the catechumens before him with their godparents and to sign one of four Books of the Elect on two tables.

“As you write your name in the Book of the Elect, know that the Lord is calling you by name,” he told them.

Father Mahoney said the rite cannot be conducted at individual parishes but must be presided over by the diocesan bishop to reinforce the central role of the bishop as shepherd and teacher of the faith.

Having completed his fourth year coordinating the ceremonies, he said he has seen couples preparing for marriage, college students and even whole families. “This year, we have two families -- mother, father and children -- participating.”

For one Revere man, Marc E. Cutler, who attends St. Anthony of Padua Church in Revere with his wife and children, his signing The Book of the Elect was something he has been thinking about for a long time, he said.

Cutler said although his mother was Catholic, his father was Jewish, and he was raised in the Jewish faith. Before he and his wife renew their vows for their 10th anniversary in October, he wanted to fully participate in the Mass.

“I was surprised when he asked me,” said Elio LoRusso, Cutler’s godfather and the brother of his wife, Maria. “But, I feel great about it.”