Last Sunday, 466 adults from Brooklyn and Queens met with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio in the auditorium of the former Bishop Ford High School. They came together with their sponsors, families and friends to celebrate the Rite of Election, which is one of the last steps before becoming members of the Catholic Church.
After 18 months of preparation as catechumens, they will receive the three initiation sacraments – baptism, first Communion and confirmation – during the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 20.
The catechumens come from different parishes, from different cultures, countries, and religious backgrounds. Each of them have a story to tell – the story of their personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the long journey that brought them to the Catholic Church.
After several months of painful news about the sex abuse crisis surrounding the Church, being at the Rite of Election last Sunday left me with a feeling of renewed hope.
I spoke with Jesús Carbajal, a young Mexican catechumen from Holy Innocents parish. He told me he was going through a rough time in his life, and his mother suggested that he start going to church. I told him it was surprising that his mother – obviously a woman of faith – didn’t baptize him when he was born. But Jesús explained that he was adopted when he was five years old. He doesn’t remember much about his life as a toddler, and his mother didn’t know his biological family. There was no way of knowing if he was baptized. When I asked how he felt now that he is so close to receiving his baptism, he said, “I can’t explain it. I feel whole for the first time. I feel pure.”
I also chatted with Aehee Hong, a Korean immigrant who attended the celebration with his son from St. Robert Bellarmine parish. Aehee was never a believer, but her sister Teresa was a devoted Catholic. When her beloved sister died last year, Aehee was devastated. “All I could do is pray to God. I couldn’t do anything else but pray to God. I just felt God calling me.”
And then she started her preparation as a catechumen together with her 15-year old son, Terrance Rim. He was also inspired by the example of his Aunt Teresa.
Aehee believes her sister Teresa would be glad knowing that her faith brought Aehee and her son to the Church. “She is with me every moment now,” said Aehee. “Stronger than before, because we are together through God. The only way for me to see her again is through God and prayer.”
These 466 catechumens came to know the faith through family and friends. Their personal encounter with Jesus Christ came through those who know Him and showed them by example what it means to be a Christian.
While the Church is experiencing turbulent times, these catechumens are a reminder that the Church continues its mission of evangelization and its charitable works around the world.
Bishop DiMarzio talked about the significance of the day. He said, “[It] is a sign of hope that people are willing, even with the difficulties the Church may be facing during this day and age, they are still willing to come forward and become members of the Church. They see something greater than the problems. They see the holiness of the Church that comes through the saints that are part of the Church.”
Also see: Bishop DiMarzio Meets Catechumens