Rite of Election begins Lenten journey for new Catholics set to be welcomed into Church at Easter

March 22, 2022

Above, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo reads the names in a Book of the Elect during the Rite of Election at St. Helen Catholic Church in Pearland March 6. Four Rites of Election were held around the Archdiocese with at least 1,652 set to join or enter full communion with the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese. (Photos by James Ramos/Herald)

PEARLAND — An important part of Lent leading up to Easter is welcoming catechumens (unbaptized) and candidates studying in formation to be welcomed into the Church in full initiation as new Catholics.

As part of this, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, C.R.S., celebrated the Rite of Election for those preparing to enter the Catholic Church at Easter.

The Rites were celebrated at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Spring, St. Martha Catholic Church in Kingwood, St. Helen Catholic Church in Pearland and the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. People from parishes all around the Archdiocese, from Manvel to Huntsville, attended, including a number from the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

During the Rite of Election, the catechumens — those who will be Baptized, Confirmed and receive their First Communion this Easter — are presented with their Godparents to the bishops and to the faith community.

“From every corner of the Archdiocese, we come together. It is good that you are here,” Cardinal DiNardo said, eagerly greeting the congregation. “This is God’s election of catechumens and candidates, those who have been praying and studying the faith. Today the Church chooses them, as Christ has chosen you, to move towards the Easter Sacraments.”

After the catechumens publicly affirmed their intention to join the Church, the bishops, on behalf of the Church, accept or “elect” them as being ready to take part in the Sacraments of Initiation.

“The Rite of Election is an important moment in the catechumens’ journey to celebrate the Sacraments in the Easter season. Here they will stand and publicly express their desire to be joined to the Church through Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist,” said Chris Labadie, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship.

“Just as important, this is when the Church, through the bishop, formally acknowledges the conversion and preparation that has already happened by naming them as chosen by God,” he said.

Following the Rite of Election, the catechumens, now known as “the elect,” begin a period of purification and enlightenment, which is the final, intense preparation for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation during the Easter Vigil.

A unique moment happens at each Rite: representatives from each parish announce the names of those intending to join the Church to the bishop, who then views these names in the Book of the Elect. After the Rite, the bishop signs the book as a witness to their faith.

Below, Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, C.R.S. speaks during the Rite of Election, while a man places his arm around another in support at St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Spring March 6. Bishop Dell’Oro also celebrated the Rite of Election at St. Martha Catholic Church in Kingwood that same day. 

In Spring, at St. Ignatius of Loyola, Bishop Dell’Oro beamed as pew after pew stood up, each filled with catechumens or candidates, alongside their godparent or sponsor, with family and loved ones nearby.

A husband and wife from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church are traveling the journey as candidates together. The young couple, Mary-Margaret and Corey Howell, are also expecting their first child in March.

“We come from a long line of Irish Catholics, but I was baptized in a Presbyterian church near my childhood home growing up, and my wife was Baptist. But now that we are expecting our own child, we wanted to find a Church home,” Howell said.

So they began the months-long journey of taking classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. RCIA has several stages marked by study, prayer and rites at Mass.

“We fell in love with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Howell said.

Lauren Gallegos of St. Pius V Catholic Church also decided to become officially Catholic because she remembered her grandmother was Catholic. Although she had not been baptized, Gallegos helped her younger sister attend Catholic school, which re-ignited her interest. Now the 30-year-old is ready after attending two years of RCIA.

“I am so excited about being able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. It is so very sacred and moving,” she said.

The director of Faith Formation in English at St. Pius V, Gina Pasket, said she has seen a difference now that her classes have started meeting in person again rather than Zoom as the pandemic recedes.

“The catechumens and candidates seem more engaged in person, a lot more comfortable sharing with each other, and they are opening up exploring deeper into the Catholic faith,” Pasket said.

Cardinal DiNardo expressed his appreciation for the intentional work, often very intense and personal, of the catechists and the Elect.

“Thank you for being on your journey and coming to the Lord,” he said. “Welcome to this important part of being members of the Church. You’re almost there. We pray for you for the next 40 days.”

Ahead of the Rites of Election, a number of parishes also celebrated the Rite of Sending, when parishes publicly declare members of their community who wish to join the Church as a candidate or catechumen, and their names are enrolled into the Book of the Elect, later viewed at the Rite of Election.

During Easter Vigil Masses on Saturday, April 16, at least 1,652 people from parishes across the Archdiocese will enter into the Catholic Church. An estimated 245 are youth candidates or catechumens.