The first weekend of Lent marked a special milestone for hundreds of people on the road to entering the Church as they took part in the Rite of Election and Continuing Conversion.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the rite for all seven deaneries, merged into four locations around the diocese: March 8 at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, March 9 at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Chapin, March 10 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, and March 11 at St. James Church in Conway.
The ceremony is a chance for catechumens and candidates to make a public acknowledgement of their commitment to their decision to join the Church. Both catechumens and candidates enter at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, when catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation. Candidates receive the Eucharist and are confirmed.
Two important and symbolic moments occur during the Rite of Election. Catechumens sign the Book of the Elect while their sponsors stand with them, and candidates receive a special blessing.
Michael Martocchio, director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation, said the Rite of Election is an important step for people who are coming into the Church.
“Many of those entering have been discerning this move for years,” he said. “Now they enter the season of Lent, which is marked as a time of more intense prayer and preparation. For those of us who are already Catholics, we are fed and nourished by the witness of their faith and should welcome them into our community.”
This year 414 people took part in the event statewide, according to statistics compiled by Martocchio’s office. He said this milestone also is a clear example of how the Rite of Christian Initiation process impacts the Catholic community. RCIA is the formal way in which people interested in joining the Church inquire, learn about the faith and then become members of the Church.
Top photo, Miscellany/Doug Deas: Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone watches as catechumens sign the Book of the Elect at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston.