The annual Rites of Election and Continuing Conversion in the archdiocese will be celebrated in parishes on the First Sunday of Lent, Feb. 21.
As of Feb. 8, there were 140 catechumens representing 52 parishes preparing to enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on April 3, according to Oscar Cruz, director of the Catechumenate for the archdiocese.
Catechumens—adults and children of catechetical age, 7 and older, who have not been baptized, confirmed, nor received First Holy Communion—the sacraments of initiation—take part in the Rite of Election during which they are declared members of the elect.
Traditionally, Cardinal Dolan serves as principal celebrant at the Rite of Election at the Cathedral. This year, amid Covid-19, he has delegated that responsibility to pastors and priests of the respective parishes.
“The blessing is that we still have people who want to become Catholic, and have made the sacrifice during the year of this pandemic, to go into formation at their parishes,” Cruz said.
The Rite of Election, Cruz explained, is in essence “a public recognition of their readiness, and a call to ongoing spiritual preparation during the coming 40 days of Lent.”
The 140 catechumens are accompanied by their godparents and have participated in the Catechumenate, or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
“It’s a historical event that we have parishes celebrate the Rite of Election,” Cruz said. “There is a beauty to gathering them together in the Cathedral with the bishop. It’s a sign of unity that they’re joined to the universal Church, not just their parish.”
The Call to Continuing Conversion is for candidates who have already been baptized, who have participated in their parish Catechumenate and who are preparing to complete their initiation in the Church. They will receive the sacraments of confirmation and First Holy Communion during this coming Easter season.
As of Feb. 8, there were 380 candidates from 52 parishes in formation for entry into full communion with the Church.
This year the majority of the instructional sessions for candidates and catechumens were held remotely via Zoom video conferencing due to the pandemic.
“It’s a heroic commitment,” Cruz said of those facilitating and assisting with the instruction, including coordinators of RCIA and catechists. “They’ve been very creative.”
Some parishes decided not to offer the Catechumenate during the pandemic and, because of that, numbers in other parishes increased, he added.
Our Lady of Pity and St. Anthony of Padua parish on Staten Island has nearly 35 catechumens and candidates this year, according to Vincent Violetta, the parish’s RCIA coordinator. More than half are from Our Lady of Pity and St. Anthony of Padua.
Violetta’s classes, from 60 to 90 minutes, are conducted via Zoom on a weekly basis. “Their commitment is good,” Violetta said. “They’re really interested.”
“It is very special for them,” said Violetta of the catechumens coming into the Church and the candidates into full communion with the Church, “in a time of a plague.”
He reminds them that prayer on the journey is paramount. “That’s what’s keeping us going...that God is there for us all the time.”