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Bishop recognizes readiness of those joining the church

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

Catechumens and candidates from across the Diocese of Sioux City were recently called forth to bear witness to their commitment to Christ and the Catholic Church.

Bishop Walker Nickless presided at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion held Feb. 17 in the afternoon at Sacred Heart Church in Ida Grove and in the evening at Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City.

Eight catechumens celebrated a step closer to their baptism and 30 candidates moved toward full initiation into the Catholic Church during the ceremony held in Ida Grove. In Sioux City, 21 catechumens were elected and 56 candidates were called.

“As pastor of the diocese, it is the bishop’s privilege and responsibility to call those who are ready to the sacraments of initiation,” said Sean Martin, diocesan director of new evangelization, catechesis and family life. “The rite for catechumens is called Election because God elects or chooses them for the sacraments of initiation. From this point on, catechumens will be known as the elect.”

He added that candidates for full initiation do not receive another title because they have already been baptized and “elected to be part of God’s holy people.”

“A special word of thanks to the priests who have joined us,” said Bishop Nickless. “All of them have worked hard today, it’s a Sunday. They are here because they love you and want to encourage you in your journey to the Catholic faith.”

Purification, enlightenment

During the homily, the bishop explained that the Cathedral is the mother church of the diocese and everyone is welcome there.

He acknowledged the catechumens and candidates. To those who are preparing for baptism in the Catholic Church, the catechumens, the bishop told them that “you have entered into the most intense period of purification.”

“This period is called a time of purification and enlightenment,” he said. “As the season of Lent unfolds in your parishes, you will undergo many rites and ceremonies. You have already experienced the initial call of God for change in your life.”

After this ceremony, the elect will undergo the scrutinies, the questions, for three Sundays, the presentation of the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and finally the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist at the Easter vigil on March 30.

“As you continue to let the spirit of God work in you, you are hopefully undergoing a profound change in your lives,” said Bishop Nickless. “You become the elect of God, chosen by God for baptism at Easter. You have been on a journey of conversion.”

The candidates, who have already been baptized, will receive the sacraments of reconciliation, confirmation and the Eucharist.

“You too have heard a call from the Lord,” said the bishop. “God is calling you to become Catholics. We welcome you as well and offer you our congratulations and our prayers.”

The bishop talked about the readings and the 40 days of Lent that prepare “us to celebrate Holy Week and Easter.” He also recognized that the Catholic Church has been in the news, since the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will resign the papacy on Feb. 28.

“Pope Benedict has been an extraordinary gift to the church and even to the world,” said Bishop Nickless. “He has taught us so much by his words and by his example. In wisdom, courage and humility he came to see that he can no longer carry the heavy burdens of being pope. In great love for the church he steps back and allows someone else to lead us.”

He encouraged those gathered to pray for the pope and for the cardinals who will elect his successor.

Election, call to conversion

Following the homily, Martin called the catechumens forward for the Rite of Election. They each greeted Bishop Nickless, signed the Book of the Elect and took their place in the sanctuary with their godparents.

Bishop Nickless questioned the godparents regarding the catechumens’ readiness for joining the church. The bishop then addressed the catechumens, asking them if they wished to enter fully in the life of the church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.

Deacon Jorge Fernandez presented the Book of Elect to the bishop during the ceremony in Sioux City.

“God is always faithful to those he calls - now it is your duty, as it is ours, to be faithful to him in return and to strive courageously to reach the fullness of truth, which your election opens up before you,” said the bishop.

“My friends, I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated in the sacred mysteries at the next Easter vigil.”

Candidates for full initiation were called forward with their sponsors during the celebration of the Call to Continuing Conversion. The candidates greeted Bishop Nickless before taking their place in the sanctuary.
The sponsors and general assembly gave affirmation of the candidates to the bishop before he asked them if they wished to continue the process of conversion - to enter fully into the life of the church through the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist.

“My friends, the church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ's Eucharistic table. Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant," prayed the bishop.

The ceremony concluded with Bishop Nickless asking for prayers for the elect and candidates as they continue their journey.

Entering the church

Jeana Bormann, a catechumen who is now among the elect, will enter the church at St. Cecelia’s in Algona. Her sponsor is Megan Klemm, who has been a great support to her.

The RCIA process, Bormann said, has been very educational.  She has learned many things through the process “which has provided clarity for many questions that I once had.

“Father Ed Girres and Deacon Bill Black have made the RCIA process enjoyable,” she said. “I look forward to our discussions in class, and have a lot of respect for all that they do for our community.” 

For Bormann, the Rite of Election in Ida Grove was “very uplifting and inspiring.” She said it was great meeting the bishop, and he was welcoming along with everyone there. 

Once Bormann becomes Catholic at the Easter vigil she is looking forward to the community of the church.  She feels that “St. Cecelia's has many wonderful, friendly people in the parish.” 

Matt Hennig, a candidate, is going through the RCIA process at Immaculate Conception Parish in Cherokee. He said he has received “tremendous” support from this sponsor Judy Slota, who has helped answer his questions.

He said that joining the Catholic Church is something he has wanted to do for a long time.

“More than anything, I want to grow a deeper knowledge with the Catholic faith and the history behind it,” said Hennig. “I am trying to be as involved as I can be within the church.”

At the ceremony in Sioux City, he thought it was neat to see so many people from the diocese who are joining the church.

Traci DeRocher, a candidate, was surprised to see so many people entering the church. She will become a member at St. Patrick Church in Akron. Her sponsor is Sandi DeRocher.

She decided to enter the church because she is marrying into a Catholic family and wants her children to be raised Catholic.

“There has been a lot of learning,” said DeRocher. “I am relearning and going deeper into the learning process with everything.”

She looks forward to being 100 percent a Catholic and being able to be involved completely in the church.
As a catechumen from St. Mary’s in Lake City, Alisha Hoffman said she has wanted to join a church and St. Mary’s is where her fiancé belongs.

Her sponsor and fiancé, Justin Bean, has been very supportive of her along with his family. She said that if he isn’t able to attend RCIA with her, one of his family members will step in. RCIA classes have been interesting for her and she has learned a lot.

Hoffman said she was nervous for the Rite of Election in Ida Grove because she didn’t know what to expect when meeting the bishop and doesn’t like being in the spot light, but overall she said it went well.

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