Trying to figure out who’s who is a common human activity. We like to know who we are sharing our time with and what relationship they have to us. So it is with the Church that gathers on Sunday for Mass. Many of the faces are as familiar as our own, but as with any healthy group, new faces are to be expected and welcomed. Some of those new faces may be responding to a call to find out more about Christ and His Church. The Church opens its arms to these seekers with the wisdom and rituals of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (the RCIA).

People who desire to learn more about the Catholic faith and its mission fall into two main groups: catechumens and candidates. A catechumen is someone who has never been baptized while candidates are those who have been baptized in another Christian denomination who desire to become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church. Catechumens and candidates undergo a period of formation involving a number of steps and phases. Then, after this formation — usually at the Easter Vigil or in the Easter Season — they receive the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. In 2020, the Diocese of Burlington had 23 catechumens and 36 candidates.

For these catechumens and candidates, Lent is a period of intensified spiritual preparation. At the beginning of Lent, the Diocese celebrates a special ritual: the “Rite of Election” for the catechumens and the “Call to Continuing Conversion” for the candidates. Based on the testimony given by the sponsors and catechists, Bishop Christopher Coyne will declare the catechumens to be “Elect,” chosen by God for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the upcoming Easter Vigil. The bishop also will recognize the desire of the already-baptized candidates for the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist within the Catholic community. The faithful throughout the Diocese are encouraged to pray for and with the catechumens and candidates this Lent, especially for the new faces they may see in their own parishes.

— Josh Perry, director of worship, Diocese of Burlington

— Originally published in the Feb. 20-26, 2021, issue of The Inland See.