It used to be that nothing seemed more important to William Niles than his study of history.  But then he entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Program at St. Joseph Cathedral in Burlington, and his faith became of paramount importance.

“This means more to me than anything in life — eternal life” through the Church, he said after the March 1 Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at the cathedral that brought him closer to full communion with the Church.

Niles was one of 18 people seeking to receive Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Some have not been baptized, others have been.

In his homily at the afternoon service, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne welcomed the candidates (who have been baptized) and catechumens (not baptized) to the cathedral, the church from which “the sacramental actions of the Diocese flow.”

He told them that when they become a member of the Catholic Church, they will not be only a member of a local church but of the universal Church.

The bishop reflected on the biblical story of Noah, who with his family God saved from the flood water. “The believer is saved by the waters of baptism,” he added.

He asked the RCIA participants to consider how God had already blessed them — with faith, life, family and the ability to make good judgements — and to build upon them.

Just days before Vermonters were to go to the polls for civic elections, Bishop Coyne said the Rite of Election would be followed by a period of preparation for “the inauguration,” the new beginning of life in the Church that they would reach at the Easter Vigil when they receive Sacraments of Initiation.

During the Rite of Election of Catechumens, Bishop Coyne asked the godparents of the catechumens questions to ascertain the readiness of the catechumens, and then he greeted them all. Parish representatives presented their Book of the Elect for the bishop to sign.

The bishop then, in the name of the entire Church, declared the catechumens to be members of the Elect who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil and entrusted their care to the godparents who have the special responsibility of helping prepare the Elect for initiation.

Bishop Coyne — during the Call to Continuing Conversion for the Candidates — asked the sponsors question to ascertain the readiness of the candidates, and, in the name of the Church, recognized the desire of the candidates to receive the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation and called them to deepen their life of faith through conversion this Lenten season. He entrusted the care of the candidates to the sponsors who will journey with them through Lent.

Josh Perry, director of worship for the Diocese of Burlington, said it was an honor to celebrate this milestone with the candidates and catechumens and called the service

“a wonderful, wonderful celebration.”

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