This year more than 100 men, women and children in the Diocese of Scranton are preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.
The Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion, the ritual at which these persons acknowledge their intention to receive the sacraments at the coming Easter Vigil, will take place at 3 p.m. this Sunday, February 17, at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton. The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton, will preside.
In the early Church, the preparation for receiving the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist) was extensive. This period of time including catechesis, rituals and enlightenment of faith was restored at the Second Vatican Council, and is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Those who will be received into the Church through Baptism at the Easter Vigil have been participants in the RCIA for many months. They have already undergone a period of inquiry about the faith and evangelization, the Precatechumenate, as well a period of catechesis, listening to the Word of God and prayer, the Catechumenate.
At the Rite of Election, the second official step of the RCIA, the Church ratifies the catechumens’ readiness for the sacraments of initiation, and after inscribing their names in the Book of the Elect, the catechumens, now called “the elect,” manifest their desire to receive these sacraments before the Bishop. Before these elect will be able to undergo the third step, the celebration of the sacraments of initiation, they will undergo a period of Purification and Enlightenment, during which, aided by certain rituals, they will more intensely reflect on the conversion from sin necessary before receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil.
During the celebration of the Call to Continuing Conversion, which will immediately follow the Rite of Election, those already baptized in the Christian faith through various ecclesial communities and now seeking full communion with the Church will present themselves to the Bishop, and, after having their readiness for the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist affirmed by their sponsors, will be invited by the Bishop to join with the Church during Lent in a spirit of repentance and renewed fidelity to their baptismal covenant, so that they will be prepared for the joyous reception of the holy sacraments. Those adults who were baptized Catholic but never confirmed, who have been preparing for the reception of the sacrament of confirmation at the Easter Vigil, are invited to participate in the ceremony by standing with the candidates for full communion. Their participation is in conformity with the United States adaptations for the RCIA.
During the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion, Bishop Bambera will ask those godparents and sponsors assembled to affirm that the catechumens and candidates have been faithful to prayer, study and living the tenets of the Catholic faith during the past year. The ceremony will be witnessed by families, sponsors, pastors and parishioners who have been supporting the catechumens and candidates throughout their period of preparation.
The process will reach its culmination when catechumens and candidates receive the sacraments of initiation, but will continue, especially for the newly baptized, through a period during the Easter season when the newly initiated continue catechetical instruction, and are warmly encouraged by members of the community to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church. This process during the Easter season is called the period of Mystagogy
At the ceremony, 44 catechumens and 61 candidates, representing 35 parishes, will present themselves to the Bishop. Thousands of persons have entered the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults since the Rite began in the Diocese of Scranton over 22 years ago.