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At Rite of Election, Catechumens Are Advised to Take Jesus as Their Model
By ARMANDO MACHADO
Maria R. Bastone
A catechumen signs the archdiocesan Book of the Elect during the annual Rite of Election at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on March 5, the first Sunday of Lent. The trilingual ceremony was conducted in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, resisted temptation and overcame the world’s evil, and so his followers should always seek to emulate such spiritual courage—for our own well-being, for our loved ones and for the Father.

That message was a key component of the homily delivered by Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh, who was the principal celebrant of the annual Rite of Election at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The rite, with nearly 500 catechumens, was celebrated on the afternoon of March 5, the first Sunday of Lent. Along with godparents, family and friends, about 1,400 people attended the trilingual ceremony conducted in English, Spanish and Chinese.

“I would like to congratulate all who are preparing to receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil,” Bishop Walsh said. “I know that you are dedicating a lot of time to prayer and study, and to familiarizing yourself with the teachings of the Church.”

The bishop added, “Our faith faces many challenges, and we have to be strong in our knowledge and in our will to meet those challenges…We may face many temptations; even Jesus himself was tempted, but his example gives us strength to do the same when we face temptations.”

After the homily, the catechumens stood together with their godparents; the godparents responded, “They have” for the Affirmation, and the catechumens responded, “We do” to the Invitation.

The catechumens, accompanied by their godparents, came forward as their names were called—parish by parish—to sign the archdiocesan Book of the Elect.  

These men and women have participated in the Catechumenate, or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), and are preparing to enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, when they will receive the sacraments of initiation—baptism, confirmation and first Holy Communion.

The Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion was celebrated at parish churches by the local pastor, at the start of Lent. That rite is for men and women who are already baptized and who will receive the sacraments of confirmation and Holy Communion during the Easter season.

Peter Yew, 72, of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan, was among the catechumens at the cathedral. His wife, Wendy Yeung, served as his sponsor because his RCIA godmother could not attend.

“All my family are Catholic, I’m the black sheep of the family,“ Yew, a Chinese-American father of two, said with a chuckle in a brief interview afterward.

“After all the years, and so many calls, I finally decided it’s time for me to come in, to go ahead and do it (to officially enter the Church). The faith—the most important thing is faith.”

Yew, a retired international freight forwarder, said looking back at his many years of personal setbacks and tribulations led him to embrace the Catholic faith fully, and to start attending Mass regularly, “to become a better person, try to love my family more, to live the faith.”

Another catechumen was Yohanny Polanco, 20, of St. Bernard parish in White Plains. A relative within Ms. Polanco’s extended family, Maria Mateo, served as her godmother. “There was an urge in me to finally get baptized and get closer to God,” Ms. Polanco told CNY after the gathering.

“I wanted to be part of the Church, and that’s why I made the decision to join the (RCIA) class…It was something that came from me, but also from my parents,” said Ms. Polanco, a third-year psychology major at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. Her family is originally from the Dominican Republic.

Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., director of the archdiocesan Catechetical Office, and Oscar Cruz, director of the Catechumenate, offered words of welcome, support and encouragement during the gathering.

In a brief phone interview two days later, Sister Joan said, “We promise our prayers, our witness and our friendship.” 

Cardinal Dolan could not celebrate the Rite of Election because he was tending to a family matter. The program included a letter from him to the catechumens and candidates. “May you enter this Lent in a spirit of prayer, repentance and charity, with Christ as your wealth and wisdom; and may you become true examples of the power of his death and resurrection,” the letter said in part.

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