During this year’s Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion on March 6, more than 100 catechumens (an unbaptized individual who has never been officially initiated into a church community) and candidates (a previously baptized person, either in the Catholic faith or in another Christian faith) publicly professed their intention to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. (Photos/Mike Melisky)


SCRANTON – At the age of only 17, Deborah McDonald of Stroudsburg found herself in need of God’s love and assistance last September.

With her mother in the hospital, she turned to prayer and it opened her eyes to the beauty of the Catholic faith.

“Before that it was not something I thought about very often,” McDonald said.

McDonald is one of several dozen people who came to the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton to take part in the Rite of Election on Sunday, March 6, 2022.

The Rite of Election is a prayer service in which those who are enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) take an important step on their journey toward becoming full members of the Catholic Church. The individuals, who have never been baptized, publicly state their desire to receive the sacraments of initiation – baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation – at the Vigil Mass of Easter in April.

“I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited,” the teenage said.

With her Godmother, Pat Bauer of Saylorsburg, by her side, McDonald proudly expressed her intention to join the Catholic Church.

“Her mom is my best friend and when she went to the hospital, she almost died. When she came home with some hefty medical conditions, Deborah was there 24-7 to help with anything her mom needed,” Bauer explained. “I just kept saying to her, ‘pray, pray, pray.’ She was praying like crazy and I really think through that prayer for her mom, not even thinking about herself, is where the Holy Spirit grabbed her!”

In addition to the Rite of Election, the Call to Continuing Conversion was celebrated the same day. That involves candidates who have already been baptized and are preparing to receive the sacraments of confirmation and First Holy Communion in their parishes during the Easter Season.

In all, more than 100 people in the Diocese of Scranton are preparing to join the church this year.

Desiree Prell of Hawley will receive all three sacraments at her parish, Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Wayne County.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while,” she explained. “I just felt like now is the time to do it.”

Having had her 10-year-old son baptized when he was born, Prell said she learned a lot from the RCIA classes.

“Every time we had class, there was always stuff that somebody brought that made you think,” she said. “Not only am I getting closer to what I didn’t understand before, but it’s also being a part of the community and we just want to help as much as we can.”

Leah Dunnells of Pike County will also receive her sacraments at the Hawley church. With all of the troubles in the world, from the pandemic to the conflict in Ukraine, she believes putting her trust in God is the only appropriate action.

“Where else do we need to go?” she questioned. “We need religion and hope He helps us and guides us in the direction we need to go.”

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, presided at the Rite of Election & Call to Continuing Conversion. During his homily, he thanked each person for saying “yes” to Jesus.

“My sisters and brothers, and especially you, our catechumens and candidates, today Jesus is calling you. He’s inviting you to walk a path with him that ultimately will lead you to a life of meaning, purpose and peace,” Bishop Bambera said. “He is saying, through his invitation, that your life – with all of its struggles and joys, with all of its blessings and challenges – has a unique place and role to play within his plan.”

While fully recognizing that some people are turning away from religion, Luis Martinez of East Stroudsburg said God is calling him to participate in the life of the Church. He will join Our Lady of Victory Parish in Tannersville at Easter.

“Everybody has their own journey. God is calling me and I’m here!” he said joyfully.

The same is true for Sokieu Brutico, who will join the Church of Saint Gregory.

“My parents raised me as Buddhist but we were never really strong into our religion and I always felt like a free spirit growing up,” she said.

After being in a serious relationship with a Catholic man, she realized the beauty of prayer and the Catholic faith. She knows this Easter will be special.

“Everyone in my family is making it a huge deal. I’m a very ‘backseat’ person where I don’t like the attention so I’m very nervous but it’s very exciting,” she added.