This weekend, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, will preside at the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw. In preparation for this liturgical rite, the diocesan Office of Liturgy has provided the following summary to help promote a better understanding of this formation process.
Many of our diocesan parishes - throughout the year - are preparing adults, youth and children for initiation into the Catholic Church through the reception of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. These individuals are called catechumens (which is a Greek word more or less translated to mean “those who are undergoing formation by the word” – in our Catholic tradition by the Word of God). Catechumens thus enter into a process of faith-formation that forms them into becoming disciples of the Lord Jesus and do so by the receiving the Easter Sacraments. This process, done within the parish setting, is called the catechumenate (a variation on the Greek word catechumen which identifies the period of formation for those unbaptized individuals seeking entrance into the Catholic Church). One way of looking at this entire process is that these catechumens are learning the way of life of a disciple of Jesus by witnessing the faith of the parish community and participating in the Church’s process of formation -- by example, worship, catechesis and witness.
The Second Vatican Council restored the process of the catechumenate in the specific directives and liturgical formation in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (often times referred to as the RCIA). It stressed the importance of not only catechetical instruction but schooling in the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love. It likewise pointed out the importance and responsibility of the whole Christian community to “co-operate” in the preparation of catechumens and directed that this process of formation (however long necessary for each individual catechumen) be intimately integrated into the Church’s liturgical year, as well as the liturgical life of the parish community.
Each year, generally on the First Sunday of Lent, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults [RCIA] celebrates the “election” of those catechumens who have been deemed appropriately prepared to receive the Easter sacraments by parish leadership. The bishop of the local diocese (or his designate) presides at this Rite of Election and, in the name of the Church, “elects” those presented by their pastoral leaders, Godparents, catechists and members of the faith community. As a result of this rite, these catechumens -- who will be fully initiated at the upcoming Easter -- are called our “elect” (meaning those who have been “chosen”).
During the liturgical rite, the pastoral leaders, Godparents, catechists and members of the faith community give witness to the bishop that the “chosen” catechumens are worthy and appropriately prepared for the Easter sacraments. As part of the Rite of Election, these “elect” are then invited to come forward with their Godparents and inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect.
Following the Rite of Election, the “elect” keep the Lenten season as their final preparation before they come forward at the Easter Vigil to accept the sacred mysteries of the Easter sacraments. This final period of the RCIA is called “The Period of Purification and Enlightenment.” In the meantime, the parishes across the diocese pray for them; fast with them; and celebrate with our “elect” the associated rites of the RCIA (e.g. Srutinies, Presentations of the Creed and the Our Father, etc.) with them.
Also present at this diocesan liturgy (on the First Sunday of Lent) are those who are already baptized in another Christian tradition and who desire to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. These individuals are called candidates (those being presented for reception of the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist). In a parallel process of formation (similar to the catechumenate), these candidates who have been appropriately catechized and prepared within the parish community are now presented to the bishop and he celebrates with them a rite called the Call to Continuing Conversion to be enacted within their parish as their final spiritual formation during Lent to become full members in the Catholic Church.
Because of the numbers of both catechumens and candidates and the number and locations of parishes throughout the Diocese of Saginaw, there are two celebrations of the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. The first is the Vigil of the First Sunday of Lent: Saturday, February 21 at 7:30 pm at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption; and then on Sunday, February 22 at 2:30 pm also at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption. Bishop Cistone will preside and various parish members and musicians will provide the liturgical ministries.