More than 250 catechumens and their godparents and nearly 300 candidates for full communion in the Catholic Church and their sponsors from throughout the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland attended the annual Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates on March 10 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland.
Because of the large number of people, there were two liturgies -- at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. -- with Bishop Nelson Perez presiding at each.
Attendees, accompanied by members of their parish who are helping in their formation, nearly filled the cathedral for each liturgy. Many arrived early in order to tour the cathedral and take photos.
“This is a beautiful church, isn’t it?” Bishop Perez asked. “But so are you.”
He told those gathered that “You make Christ very happy today and also the Church of Cleveland.” The bishop said the catechumens and candidates are preparing for the final stretch before receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil. He said Lent is a time for preparation, explaining that the word’s Anglo Saxon roots mean springtime.
Bishop Perez used the analogy of a gardener or a farmer preparing the soil for planting by removing the debris from the previous year in order to start fresh with new seed. Once the seed is planted, God does the rest. He said Lent is much the same as we enter a time of intense prayer to prepare our hearts and souls for Easter.
“Things fall in and out of our lives. Some is good, some is not. We need to figure out what should stay and what needs to go as we prepare for Christ,” he said. “The question for us should be what does God want of me so I can be more like him?”
The desert figured prominently in the day’s Gospel, since Jesus went there and faced temptation from the devil.
“The desert is a sacred place, a good place. It is a place of encounter. Jesus went there to ponder what his Father wanted,” the bishop said.
“You are at the threshold of the most powerful, transformative day of your life,” he told the catechumens and candidates. “You are giving your life to Christ in a particular way and he is giving his life to you. Once you encounter Jesus, your life will never be the same.”
The bishop said people are coming to the Church at various times in their lives. He said some may ask why Christ came when he did.
“He came when it was time. And you did, too. You came to the Church when it was your time.”
After the homily, Jeanne Marie Miles, director of the diocesan Office for Worship, announced the names of parishes and the catechumens and their godparents as they processed up the main aisle of the cathedral where they were greeted by Bishop Perez. A representative of each parish presented the book with their names to the bishop. Each parish group was accompanied by two acolytes.
The catechumens will be baptized, receive their first Holy Communion and be confirmed at the Easter Vigil Mass in their parishes.
After formally accepting the catechumens, the same procedure was repeated for the candidates who are answering the call to continuing conversion. The candidates, who already were baptized and received their first Holy Communion, will receive the sacrament of confirmation at the Easter Vigil Mass in their parishes.