Catechumens elected by God to prepare for baptism

“For the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.” - Romans 10: 11-12
GARY – Catholics in the Diocese of Gary will have twice as many reasons to rejoice this Easter as they welcome 80 new brethren into the faith - almost double as many as a year ago.
The 80 catechumens who will receive the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation at Easter Vigil services in their parish on Saturday, March 30 were accepted as “the elect” by God at Rite of Election services held Feb. 18 at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels.
Welcoming the catechumens, many making their first visit to the Cathedral of the Holy Angels, Bishop Robert J. McClory told them, “This is your new home, the mother church of the diocese.”
In his homily, the bishop used a geographical theme, revealing that he drove along the Lake Michigan shore past Miller Beach on his way to the downtown cathedral. While he saw beachfront signs that warned, “No Lifeguard on Duty,” signaling “There is no one here to help you if you wander out into the water,” the message was just the opposite in the day’s scripture readings.
In the first reading from Romans, he noted, “It says if you confess with your mouth, you will be saved and in the Gospel, Jesus says, ‘I didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save the world.
“Sometimes people will throw a life ring into the water to save you, but what does Jesus save us from, and how does he save us?” the bishop asked.
“Original Sin was the first turning away from God, from God’s plan for us, and the world has gotten pretty messed up because of Original Sin,” said the bishop. Yet, like a lifeguard, “The Lord says I’ll save you; you don’t have to be perfect to be saved,” the bishop added. “I will call you into my loving embrace … and that is only a fraction of what it means to be baptized. Christ can change our hearts, change our lives.”
It is on the first Sunday of Lent each year that those studying through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) gather with their godparents, families and friends to be elected by God and have their names enrolled before the presence of the bishop, who signs each participating parish’s Book of Elect.
St. John Bosco in Hammond was one of two parishes presenting the most catechumens, 13, to the bishop.
Father Jeff Burton said that number may be attributed to the “openness and welcoming” of the faith community. “We also have two children from our school who asked their parents to be baptized,” he added. “They go to Mass weekly from preschool on up, and see our faith, and they desire that for themselves, too. We also live in a rapidly evolving part of Indiana; south Hammond and Woodmar are getting younger in terms of our population.”
Vickie Blackwood, the parish’s RCIA director, has seen entire families seeking baptism. “People have roots in the Church and they want to come back now with their children,” she said. “We meet them where they are.”
Father Kevin R. Huber, chancellor of the diocese, formally presented the catechumens to the bishop at the Rite of Election. With the celebration of the Scrutinies still ahead, Father Huber confirmed that the catechumens “are completing their period of preparation. They have found strength in God’s grace and support in our community’s prayers and example.”
The bishop affirmed the catechumens are ready to take the final steps toward baptism and the other sacraments of initiation by questioning their godparents as to whether the hopefuls have listened and responded to God’s word and joined their Christian brothers and sisters in prayer. He also spoke directly to the assembly, garnering their pledge of support for the catechumens.
After securing their intention to “enter fully into the life of the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist,” the bishop called each of the catechumens, with their godparents, to the altar individually to state their full name aloud, declaring them members of the Elect.
A list of intercessions read aloud for the Elect called on them to read the Word of God, work to correct their faults, dedicate their daily work to the Lord, abstain from everything that defiles the heart, grow to love and seek virtue and holiness, renounce self and put others first, and “That they may share with others the joy they have found in their faith.”
“Bless all your adopted children and add these chosen ones to the harvest of your new covenant,” proclaimed Bishop McClory as he prayed over the elect near the end of their formal acceptance into the faith. “As true children of the promise, may they rejoice in eternal life, won, not by the power of nature, but through the mystery of your grace.”
Chris Somervell Jr., of Cedar Lake, may be making the longest journey of all this year despite being only 18. “I believed in God, but I was close to being an atheist with no religious affiliation,” until he met classmate Gabrielle Anderson, of St. John, at Hanover Central High School. “She was born and raised a Catholic and she turned things around for me. Now we go to Mass every Sunday and I’m excited to be able to receive the Eucharist.”
Anderson said her “very, very Catholic mother has been telling Chris everything about the faith and answering all his questions that I can’t. She has even kind of brought me back to the Church.”
Olivia Ortiz, 14, of Munster, is surrounded by family members who are Catholic, but she was not baptized as a child, although she has attended religious education classes at St. John Bosco and has been asking her mother to be baptized. “We have been studying the sacraments, and getting accepted by the bishop was really special,” she said.
Kristine Horan, of Sacred Heart in LaCrosse, has been following closely in some nearby footsteps. He son became a Catholic two years ago, and her sister and godparents, Melissa Clancy, was baptized Catholic a year ago. “I felt like I needed a different path in life. I remember things from scripture that I learned growing up, and I enjoy the fellowship of everyone in my RCIA class. The best thing about my journey so far was seeing all the people out there today with their families and loved ones.”


Caption: Eighty catechumens and their sponsors gather near the altar as Bishop Robert J. McClory (center) prays over the elect during the Rite of Election for Catechumens on Feb. 6 at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary. Each person preparing to enter the Catholic Church sacramentally at Easter announced their name before their sponsors and a near-capacity congregation among whom Bishop McClory said, "Today is one step closer to that beautiful day of your baptism - the washing and cleansing of sins - but also you will be ... brought into the body of Christ."  (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)