SCRANTON – After reading the bible for most of her life, Katelyn Haytko, 20, is now ready to fully enter into the life of the Catholic Church.

On Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, the First Sunday in Lent, the Newfoundland native was one of 177 people from the Diocese of Scranton who participated in the Rite of Election & Call to Continuing Conversion at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

“It’s important for me to step into my faith a little bit more,” Haytko said.

Surrounded by the catechumens looking to join the Catholic Church at Easter, Bishop Bambera invites each person to sign their name in their individual parish ‘Book of the Elect.’ (Photos/Mike Melisky)

After months of preparation at her parish – Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Hawley – Haytko is preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) at this year’s Easter Vigil.

“The program has really opened my eyes to so many things that I didn’t know from reading my bible so I’m very grateful to be a part of the program,” she said.

Her grandmother, Chris Haytko, is serving as her godparent.

“It filled my heart, I cried when she told me she wanted to become Catholic,” Chris said. “It just meant so much to me. I have a strong faith and I’m so glad that she’s now a part of that faith.”

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, presided over the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion liturgy.

“What we do here today represents the most important thing we can do as Church, to call one another to a deeper relationship to Christ,” Bishop Bambera said in welcoming those in attendance to the Cathedral.

During the homily, Bishop Bambera spoke directly to the catechumens (those who are not baptized) and the candidates (those who are baptized but have not received Holy Communion or Confirmation).

Godparents place their hands on the shoulder of the catechumens preparing to join the Catholic Church this Easter during the Rite of Election on Feb. 18, 2024.

“My sisters and brothers, don’t discount for an instant the power of this moment in your lives. Jesus is speaking to you today, inviting you to a relationship with him, calling you by name to follow Him,” Bishop Bambera said. “He is inviting you to walk a path that leads to a life of meaning, purpose, and peace. He is saying, through His invitation, that your life – with all its struggles and joys, with all its blessings and challenges – has a unique place and role to play within His plan.”

Each of the catechumens and candidates then demonstrated their wish to become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church through a series of questions and responses before the congregation, including pastors, friends, and family.

The catechumens also inscribed their name in the Book of Elect for their home parish.

“Getting baptized is going to be a rebirth,” Stephane Enot of Pleasant Mount said.

After going through a number of hard times recently, including losing his mother-in-law and having his wife diagnosed with cancer, the parishioner of Saint Mary Parish in Waymart found solace in his faith.

“I found so much peace in going back to church and starting back reading the bible and all that, and then all of a sudden, it was obvious that I had to do it (join the Church). I’ve been postponing it for so long,” Enot explained.

Jolene Drum of Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, and two close friends, made the decision to go through the process together.

“My fiancé is a cradle Catholic; he was brought up Catholic, and his dad is my sponsor. My fiancé is our friend’s sponsor, and his wife is being sponsored by my future mother-in-law, so we’re just going all together,” she explained. “We go to church every weekend and go to class on Mondays together. We’re just doing this as a group. It makes it a lot easier.”

During all the preparatory classes, Drum says they were able to ask questions without judgment, because everyone has each other’s best interests at heart. They say they have found strength and purpose being on this journey together.

“It does bring a deeper, further discussion on why things are the way they are and the history behind it,” she explained.

Timothy Langan of Mountain Top, a parishioner of Saint Jude Parish, was baptized as a baby and received the Eucharist in second grade – but never received Confirmation.

That will all change at the end of the month.

“I’ve always had a very strong relationship and strong faith with God, but I let it get away from me,” he explained. “It’s one of the things that I wanted to make sure I finish in my life. It is important. I have two young daughters – one in college and one in high school – and it is important to bolster that part of my faith.”

John Hodle, who also attends Saint Jude Parish, will receive both the Eucharist and Confirmation.

“I’ve learned a lot and it really opened up my mind,” Hodle said. “It’s been a very positive experience. I’ve learned a lot about the faith and the classes helped me understand things during the Mass and why things are done the way they are.”

Anyone interested in joining the Catholic Church or coming into full communion with the Church can contact their local parish to learn more about the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) program.