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Candidates and catechumens are welcomed at the Rite of Election

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Candidates and catechumens are motivated by many reasons to join the Catholic Church this Easter, including the desire to be of the same faith as a spouse and children, or even after the loss of a spouse. At the Rite of Election, held March 4 and 5 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, 278 catechumens and 377 candidates from 40 parishes were welcomed. 

"It will be an Easter like no other,” said Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge in his homily, “because on that sacred night you will be united in an eternal bond with Jesus Christ and His Church."

"Walk in the light of Christ, the light we are asked to reflect to one another," said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

The bishop said although everyone has a unique story of how they came to this journey, the candidates and catechumens have three things in common — the call of God, prayer and support from others, and a journey that leads to Easter.

Bishop Burbidge invited the Catholics in attendance to renew their commitment to remain faithful to the Gospel and leave behind any darkness in their lives. 

"Walk in the light of Christ, the light we are asked to reflect to one another," he said. 

Representative catechumens brought forth the Book of the Elect to Bishop Burbidge for his signature when the parishes were called, including Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, Sacred Heart Church in Manassas and St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington. 

Kathryne Richard, a Presbyterian, was inspired by her Catholic fiancé. "Through seeing how he lives his life through the Catholic faith, it made me want to be stronger in my faith," she said.

Richard Mann said he wants to join his wife and daughter in the Catholic faith at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Arlington.

Naomi Hoza, a catechumen from St. Luke Church in McLean, said her decision to join the church began with her desire for a personal relationship with God, that developed into a spiritual relationship. "This is like a whole new beginning," she said. "This is what I wanted to do and I think it is the right thing."

Being a sponsor can have an impact, as well. Mel Carpenter, a parishioner of St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg, has been a sponsor for eight people. He said he learns a lot from helping others. 

"There's a big need (for sponsors) and we are trying to encourage more people to do it," he said. It renews his faith every year, and helps him to keep in sync with the church calendar, he said.

Bruce Halbrook is in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program at All Saints Church in Manassas, which has nearly 190 adults and children in the RCIA and RCIC programs. Nearly 60 people were at the Rite of Election and 100 will be baptized at Easter. Halbrook’s wife, who died in February, was Catholic. Halbrook went to see Deacon Brian Majewski after her death and asked about joining the church.

When asked what his wife would think, Halbrook said she would be shocked because she never expected him to convert. The process has given him some comfort, he said.

Pete and Michelle Wittkoff of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle decided Catholicism closely matched what they wanted in both their lives. Pete said his and his wife’s ancestors were Catholic, though he didn’t grow up in any formal religion, and Michelle was Protestant. Their son, Alexander, attends St. Francis of Assisi School and will be confirmed this year. Pete will receive all the sacraments, while Michelle will receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist and confirmation.

Wittkoff lost his mother recently and said it would have been a completely different experience if he was not as far on the journey to Catholicism.

“It changes life a lot when you know that it’s not just you and what’s around you like the secular world seems to indicate,” Wittkoff said of the support he and his wife have found in the Catholic Church.

The Office of Catechetics is supported by the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.

To buy photos from the Rite of Election go to catholicherald.smugmug.com.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017