CHARLESTON — The Diocese of Charleston has 562 people preparing to enter the Catholic Church this Easter, an increase from 487 last year. During the first two weeks of Lent, catechumens participate in the Rite of Election and candidates the Call to Continuing Conversion. The catechumens are people who are not yet baptized who will receive all three sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and their first Eucharist at Easter. Those already baptized in other churches or baptized Catholic but not raised in the faith are called candidates. They will receive confirmation and the Eucharist on Easter Sunday. Candidates, catechumens and their sponsors gathered March 3 at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Greenville in the Piedmont Deanery, March 4 at Corpus Christi Church in Lexington for the Midland Deanery, March 5 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for the Coastal and Lowcountry deaneries, and March 6 at Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawley’s Island for the Pee Dee Deanery.
Bishop Robert J. Baker celebrated all of the Masses. In his March 5 homily he referred to Lent as “God’s gift to his family to renew us in Spirit.”
“Pray for me, as I will for you that this holy season be truly a time of blessings for you as you journey toward Easter and the Easter Sacraments that will bring you into full communion with the Catholic Church,” the bishop said.
“Among the principal purposes of the season of Lent is the awakening in us of a desire to love God more fully and serve him more genuinely and joyfully in serving our brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said.
“Being a Christian is all about our love relationship with God in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, which fosters our love relationship with all God’s people.” Bishop Baker said that “love is an active verb that involves finding Christ first in prayer, and then in other people, and in overcoming the hurdles of selfishness that are rooted in such hazards as the seven capital sins — pride, anger, envy, sloth, gluttony, avarice and lust.”
“These Lenten days of preparation for the Easter Sacraments are our days of asking God’s help in overcoming the hurdles to love through the grace afforded us by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in this great season of grace that is God’s gift to us his family,” the bishop said.
“Once again, welcome to that family — the community that is the Catholic Church —that comprises the Communion of Saints — those who have gone before us and those walking with us on the pilgrimage of faith in the Church Militant, as it has been called.”
“You must remember that you never walk alone,” he said. “You are connected to all of those around the world.”
Following the bishop’s homily the catechumens were announced and invited to sign the Book of the Elect. The candidates were then presented, followed by the Act of Recognition.
Donna Driggers of St. John the Beloved Church in Summerville said that the day was very exciting. Her husband of 28 years, John, was taking his first step into the church.
“I just let it happen on its own,” she said. “I never pushed him. I wanted him to do it on his own.”
“I was raised in a Holiness church,” John said. “For all these years I have been planning on doing it, but it just seemed like now was the right time. It is truly bringing us closer in our marriage.”
Lee Helton from Beaufort said the step into the church was one that he knew he had to take.
“I am in the Marine Corps and was raised Baptist,” he said. “My fiancée wanted to become Catholic and we did it. I feel that this is the true Universal Church and I know that being in the Marine Corps, no matter where I go, it will be the same climate and the worship will be the same.”