“I am so excited to be a part of the Catholic Church!”
CARIBOU---“We mark today not just a step on the way to the sacraments, but also a recognition that God is with us. God’s loving presence, his guiding grace is seen in the lives of those whose names we enroll today. That truly makes our gathering a wonderful moment of grace.”
Joe and Jamie Owens smiled in agreement at the words of Bishop Robert P. Deeley on Saturday evening, March 4. The husband and wife, married for 27 years, were among those participating in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Caribou (additional pictures below).
During the Rite of Election, catechumens (those who have not been baptized in any Christian faith tradition) publicly express their desire for baptism to the bishop. Candidates (those who were baptized in another Christian faith tradition) celebrate the Call to Continuing Conversion by professing their faith in and coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. In total, over 110 catechumens and candidates will participate in three such celebrations this weekend (also Notre Dame Church in Waterville and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, both on Sunday).
On Saturday night, parishes presented the catechumens and candidates to the bishop and the congregation. Godparents and sponsors were asked by the bishop to affirm that those in preparation are sufficiently ready to continue their faith journeys, and the catechumens and candidates affirm their desire to fully enter into the life of the Church. The catechumens’ names were each entered into the Book of the Elect which the bishop signed during the Rite of Election. The Book of the Elect is a designation which reflects that the bishop, in the name of the Lord and the local Church, is choosing or electing them to share in the Easter sacraments.
“These elect and candidates, whom we bring with us to the Easter sacraments, will look to us for an example of Christian renewal,” the bishop told those gathered. “Let us pray to the Lord for them and for ourselves, that we may be renewed by each other’s efforts and together come to share the joys of Easter.”
Seeking that joy and more spirituality in their lives sent Joe and Jamie Owens down the path to becoming catechumens. The couple, who attends St. Denis Church in Fort Fairfield, has been working through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) since January of last year.
“I wanted more meaning to life, especially in the face of the death, inhumanity, and horror that I experienced while serving twenty years in the U.S. Navy,” said Joe. “The Catholic Church has such a beauty and welcoming nature. The friendliness of the faithful who attend Mass also drew me in.”
“Getting to know the faithful Catholics in RCIA and learning about how they live their lives in faith every day was so inspiring,” said Jamie, a graduate of Boston College who was impressed by the scholarly tradition of the Jesuits while attending the school. “The Catholic Church has such a rich history. I wanted to be part of something greater than myself and to connect to others in my community.”
For Sarah Quirk, a catechumen from St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Houlton, the inspiration to become a member of the Catholic Church originated from home.
“My husband and two daughters are Catholic,” said Quirk. “It was my turn to be baptized and confirmed to join my family. My oldest daughter has been an altar server for the past three years and my youngest daughter will be confirmed this year. I feel like me becoming Catholic will strengthen my family.”
Bethany Beckwith, who attends St. Denis Church in Fort Fairfield, grew up attending a Wesleyan church but had started to fall away before college, where attending non-denominational services also left her unfulfilled.
“I desperately wanted to serve God with all of my might and talents, and to be rooted in a church that didn't get carried away with emotional highs,” said Bethany. “I realize now I was searching for tradition.”
Her now-fiancé, Andrew, asked Bethany if she wanted to attend RCIA classes with him in Fort Fairfield.
“It wasn't even a month when I attended my first Holy Hour, and wept through the entirety of it. It was in that Holy Hour that I realized the Rosary is praying through the life of Jesus! What an amazing practice that brings humility, keeps the mind from thinking of the self and rather focusing more intently on the life of Jesus, drawing into a relationship with the Holy Mother and giving her honor, as well as venerating God above all. I began to learn that day that the Catholic Church is the rawness of faith I had been yearning for.”
Kasey Haley, who attends Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Presque Isle, was the only member of her Catholic family not to be baptized.
“My family inspired me to make this decision and become a Catholic,” said Haley. “I feel honored that I will be in full communion on Easter. The RCIA process was fun and well worth going to. I love how the Catholic Church welcomes everybody.”
Attending faith formation classes with her daughter led Wendy Deeves, a candidate from St. Catherine Church in Washburn who was raised as a Baptist in Texas, to realize that she, too, wanted to be Catholic.
“This means a great deal,” Deeves said about coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. “My husband is Catholic and we decided to raise our daughter Catholic. I feel like we will grow as a family. I am so excited to be a part of the Catholic Church!”
For the elect and the candidates, Lent will be a final period of purification and enlightenment. They will spend the season in deeper prayer and preparation, as they anticipate their entry into the Church. The Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation takes place during the Easter Vigil, held on Holy Saturday (April 15, 2017). The catechumens receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, while the candidates complete their initiation by receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
Having Bishop Deeley celebrate Saturday’s Mass was a moving experience for the participants.
“We are very humbled he is here,” said Joe Owens.
“His presence signifies how important new members are to the Church,” said Jamie Owens.
The bishop said the occasion should remind all believers, not just those entering the Church, that we are called to bring the Gospel to others.
“Let our lives truly reflect our faith as we live in the hope and charity that should mark us as Christians and Catholics. By so doing, we will continue to proclaim the Gospel and invite others to walk with us in the graced journey that Jesus shows us.”
A special section has been created featuring resources to assist Maine Catholics during their Lenten journey, including Mass times, special event listings, a Lenten calendar, faith formation and Scripture reflections, retreat information, ways to share their gifts, and Lenten messages from Pope Francis.