COLUMBIA — More than 400 people from around the Diocese of Charleston took part in Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremonies held Feb. 8-11.
The Piedmont deanery’s service was at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors on Feb. 8; followed by the Midlands deanery at St. Joseph Church in Columbia on Feb. 9; Coastal and Lowcountry deaneries at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston on Feb. 10; and the Pee Dee deanery at St. James Church in Conway on Feb. 11.
Traditionally, the Rite of Election is held on or near the first Sunday of Lent. Catechumens and candidates publicly declare their intent to enter the Roman Catholic Church during the Mass.
Catechumens are people who will celebrate the church’s sacraments of initiation, which include baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion. Candidates are those who have already been baptized in another Christian community or tradition and are preparing to undergo the rite of reception into full communion with the Catholic Church.
According to figures compiled by the diocesan Office for Evangelization, Catechesis and Christian Initiation, 454 men, women and young people took part in the ceremonies, which feature two special symbolic gestures.
Catechumens sign their name in the Book of the Elect; candidates place their hands in holy water and make the sign of the cross to indicate their commitment to the Catholic faith. Both groups fully join the church during Easter Vigil services.
Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, officiated at all of the ceremonies this year.At the Midlands deanery ceremony, more than 80 catechumens and candidates from Columbia, Irmo, Lexington, Camden, Sumter, Rock Hill, Gloverville, Aiken and other areas attended with their sponsors and godparents.
During his homily, Msgr. Laughlin encouraged those coming into the Catholic Church to look on their life of faith as a special gift and also as a great responsibility.
“Faith is a great gift, and each one of us must open our hearts and accept that grace,” he said. “I urge you to study your faith. In this world today, a secular world and a world full of noise and many values, it is needed that we live the faith with intelligence. We need Catholic leaders as never before. Study your faith and be very attentive of your faith, especially in the sacraments. The sacraments are active worship of Jesus Christ.”
Jennifer Kosydar, a catechumen from Corpus Christi Church in Lexington, said the Rite of Election was special for her because she has been studying to enter the church for several years.
“It really meant a lot to me to take part in this,” she said. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time and it’s really good to finally be close to coming into the church.”
“This was a very emotional thing for me,” said Theresa Dozier, a candidate from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Camden. “I was a little overwhelmed with the spirit of God that was present during the ceremony.”
At the Pee Dee deanery ceremony, nearly 60 catechumens and candidates participated in an evening of bilingual readings, prayers and hymns. The ceremony drew people from parishes in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Garden City, Conway, Georgetown and Pawleys Island, as well as other areas in the Pee Dee.
Msgr. Laughlin’s homily focused on the meaning and importance of the sacraments, as well as the importance of an active prayer life.
“Prayer is the most noble of human aspirations,” he said. “When we are tired and broken, or when we have sinned, in prayer Jesus gives us the spirit that heals us. Prayer waters the parched ground and brings it back to life. We must study how to pray. The words of the Gospels, the words of Jesus Christ and the disciples should be always on our lips.”
He also stressed the importance of studying Scripture and the central role it should have in the lives of active Catholics.
“We must know Scripture. How can we say we love Jesus if we have never read anything about him?” he asked.
Rhetta Lynch, a candidate from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Myrtle Beach, said the ceremony was part of a long spiritual journey for her.
“Over the years I have met so many Catholics who were so sincere and who lived their faith, and I was drawn to Catholicism,” she said. “This was a wonderful and uplifting experience for me. It really touched my heart.”