SALT LAKE CITY — At the Easter vigil this year, more than 300 people in the Diocese of Salt Lake City will join the Catholic Church.
Many of the more than 200 Catechumens and almost 100 Candidates from parishes throughout Utah attended the Rite of Election of Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion of Baptized Candidates at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in February. Because of the numbers, three sessions were held: two on Feb. 17 and one on Feb. 24.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion welcomes men women and children into a new relation with the Church. The Catechumens are preparing for baptism and celebrate the Rite of Election as part of their readiness to receive the sacraments. The Candidates – those who are already baptized – are called to greater conversion as they ready themselves to receive their First Communion and Confirmation. All of them are preparing to be welcomed into the Church.
“This is a sacred moment as you accept God’s invitation in order to embrace Christ as your Lord and Savior,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis told the Catechumens and Candidates during the Feb. 17 Rite of Election.
The word “election” comes from Latin “to choose,” and “you have chosen to belong to the community of faith we call the Catholic Church. However, in reality, it is God who has chosen and called you” to be part of his kingdom, said the bishop, who also repeated his words in Spanish. “Our history of salvation is about God always reaching to us, to be united with him.”
Inspired by the grace of God, those who are now the Elect have responded to God’s call for a loving union with Christ, the bishop said. “However, your response must not be just a simple ‘yes’ in words, but rather a yes to true conversion of your heart and total transformation of your life in Christ.”
As he closed his remarks, he thanked the Elect for their continued commitment to God’s call and encouraged them to persevere in their journey. “Your parish community and our diocese are enriched and strengthened by your presence and participation in the life of the Church,” he said.
At the Feb. 24 Rite of Election, Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, the diocesan vicar general, was the celebrant because Bishop Solis was attending the regional V Encuentro in Arizona.
As did Bishop Solis, Msgr. Bircumshaw explained the etymology of the word “election.” He then added, “God chooses you. God claims you. God, who is love itself, loves you by choosing and claiming you as his very own. He says, ‘I will be your God and you will be my people.’”
The Catechumens and Candidates are called by name by a God who loves them personally, and “yours is a personal response to a very personal invitation, and his invitation has brought you right here to this community, where your love for him and his love for you will continue to be nurtured and fed,” Msgr. Bircumshaw said.
The sacraments, which the Elect will receive at the Easter vigil, will make them more like Christ “so that you might live like him so that you might live with him in the fullness of life and love,” he said.
He thanked them for their commitment and their witness. “The Church, the Diocese of Salt Lake City, your parishes, your fellow Christians are strengthened, they are enriched because of what you will and are doing,” Msgr. Bircumshaw said.