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900 diverse Catholic elect from 52 parishes gather at cathedral

March 6, 2015
Rick DelVecchio

The Archdiocese of San Francisco will welcome 1,000 newcomers to the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil on April 4, and 900 of them gathered with their sponsors and other supporters from 52 parishes and with Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone at St. Mary’s Cathedral to proclaim their desire to enter into full communion with the church.

The group at the annual Rite of Election on Feb. 22 included 400 catechumens – Greek for “one in whom word echoes.” With their parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults sponsors at their sides, the catechumens signed the Book of the Elect at the rite. They left the cathedral as those elected for baptism at the Easter Vigil, to be initiated as full disciples of Christ on the night the church anticipates Christ’s Resurrection.

The catechumens were joined by 500 people who have been baptized in another faith and are now candidates for entering into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The Rite of Election, usually held on the first Sunday of Lent, marks the catechumens’ and candidates’ final preparation for the sacraments of initiation, Sister Jeanine Marino said in a U.S. bishops’ article on the Catholic conversion process.

“On the First Sunday of Lent, those taking classes at parishes gather with the archbishop, and if he approves they can be welcomed into the church at the Easter Vigil,” said Laura Bertone, archdiocesan director of worship.

Among those gathered were eight from the RCIA class at the cathedral, with cathedral administrator Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice.

“There is no typical candidate,” Bertone said. “They’re every age, every ethnic background. The youngest you can be is 7. The oldest is in her 70s. They represent the archdiocese pretty well. It really is remarkable how (they) represent the diversity of the archdiocese.”

The annual assembly at the cathedral is significant because it is the one chance the elect have to greet everyone from other parishes, Bertone said. They may return to the cathedral for the annual Neophyte Mass the week after Easter.

“If they’re in a little church, when they come to the cathedral they see this is a big church,” Bertone said. “It really opens their eyes.”

In his homily to the gathering of 1,400, Archbishop Cordileone spoke in English and in Spanish about discipleship and stewardship and quoted from Pope Francis’ Lenten reflection.

The reception of the sacraments at the Easter Vigil is one step in the Catholic conversion process, which continues with formation and education and continues at least until Pentecost in the period of the post baptismal catechesis, which is called “mystagogy.” Newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil, continue to learn about the Scriptures, the sacraments and church teachings, and reflect on how they will serve Christ in the church’s mission and outreach activities.

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