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On the path to full communion with the Church

March 11, 2020

By Jessica Hargrave
Contributing writer

OGDENSBURG – On the first Sunday of Lent, Bishop Terry R. LaValley celebrated the annual Rite of Election and Call to Conversion at St. Mary’s Cathedral, welcoming those who are prepared to fully enter the Catholic Church.

The ceremony, held on March 1, is a key milestone in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a gradual process of conversion and initiation into the Catholic Church. It’s during Lent when the 33 catechumens and candidates bind their new-found relationship with God, and they will receive the Sacraments of Initiation – baptism, the Eucharist and confirmation – at the Easter Vigil.
As part of the celebration, Bishop LaValley had an opportunity to meet the catechumens and candidates from parishes around the diocese and support them on their journeys to the Catholic faith. During the Rite of Election, parish RCIA directors presented catechumens to the bishop.
Then, one by one, the catechumens signed their names in the Book of The Elect, strengthening their commitment and discipleship to their new faith. Bishop LaValley then declared them members of the Elect, moving them forward in preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation.

During the Call to Continuing Conversion, candidates who are already baptized Christians were affirmed by their sponsors and the assembly. With Bishop LaValley’s acceptance, the candidates will take the next steps toward being in full communion with the Church.

For candidate Thomas Schneider, of St. Mary’s in Canton, the RCIA process was a long one but was worth it.
“For me it’s continuing on my love for God,” he said.

For Rachel Johnson, a catechumen from St. Patrick’s in Watertown, the Rite of Election had a deep, emotional meaning.

“I lost my spouse in September and I’m very grateful for Father Looby who was there for me,” she said. “My husband and I, we already had this planned. I know my husband is with me and God is with me day in and day out.”

Preparation through the RCIA program covers Church history, the sacraments, learning to read Scripture, prayer and personal testimonies.

Mary Skillian has been the RCIA director at St. John the Baptist in Plattsburgh for 11 years, and recently took on the role as director for all three parishes in Plattsburgh. Skillian said she gets much joy in journeying with people as they prepare to enter the Catholic Church.

“I will be at Mass and see and speak with people I have journeyed with and think, ‘oh yes, this, this or this happened during their preparation,’” she said. “A highlight of the journey is always the trip to the Cathedral for Rite of Election. Their excitement of meeting Bishop LaValley and knowing how close they are to realizing their desire to enter the Church is palpable. What is particularly memorable is when, without a doubt, you see that conversion within an individual. It takes my breath away. Of course, the apex is at the Easter Vigil when you see them receive their sacraments and knowing you helped them realize this brings tears to my eyes.”

The Bishop thanked the pastors, sponsors and RCIA directors who are shepherding each catechumen and candidate through the process. The Easter Vigil takes place on Holy Saturday, the evening before Easter Sunday when the catechumens will be presented to the parish community. The catechumens are then baptized and confirmed with the candidates and receive the holy Eucharist for the first time.


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