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Bishop celebrates rites, parishioners closer to full membership

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

Nothing is more important than your relationship with Jesus, Bishop Walker Nickless recently told catechumens and candidates.

The bishop sent that message during his homily at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion held March 9 in two locations of the diocese – an afternoon service at Sacred Heart Church in Ida Grove and an evening one at Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City.

Joining the church

The catechumens were elected to become full members of the Catholic Church during the Rite of Election. They will be baptized and receive the other sacraments of full initiation - Communion and confirmation - at the Easter vigil in their home parishes. The candidates, those who are already baptized, will also receive the sacraments of full initiation in their home parishes on Holy Saturday.

Michelle Lesline of St. Michael Parish in Sioux City described the ceremony as beautiful.

“I had never witnessed anything like this. It was very special to me and I’m glad I was here,” said the catechumen. Prior to the RCIA process, she acknowledged she was not aware of all the “work, practice and how much you have to believe in to become a Catholic. I’m very proud to be here.”

Lauri Evans of St. Anthony Parish in Hospers, a catechumen, acknowledged she had been nervous to take part in the ceremony but was affirmed to know the support she received by her pastor, pastoral member and the larger community.

Signing the Book of Elect helps to make the process seem more real, she said, adding, “I’m very excited and ready to take part in the Eucharist.”

Lacey Kilzer of St. Michael Parish in Sioux City said this ceremony helped set the pace leading up to the Easter vigil and it gave her some good things to think about.

“It’s nice to see everyone come together and to know there is a larger number than just what is in your RCIA class,” she said.

These three are among the nearly 100 people who will join the church in the diocese. In Ida Grove, there were 16 catechumens from eight parishes and 33 candidates from 11 parishes. There were 14 catechumens from eight parishes and 33 candidates from 14 parishes in Sioux City.

“Today marks the solemn beginning of the final phase of preparation for the Easter sacraments,” said Bishop Nickless, who told them to continue to avoid temptation of sin through conversion. “It’s also a time of enlightenment through continued study and reflection on the teachings of the Catholic Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and, hopefully, through the good example of Catholics you know.”

He told them they would soon join the more than one billion people around the world “who call our pope Francis.”

“We welcome you with open arms and joyful hearts,” Bishop Nickless said. “We promise you our continued prayers and support.”

Lenten journey

For all Catholics, he noted, Lent was a time to strive for holiness through prayer, fasting and purification.
Bishop Nickless said everyone is faced with challenging choices on a daily basis. He reflected on choices made by Eve, who ate the forbidden fruit, and Jesus’ choice as he was tempted by the devil.

“The season of Lent calls us to embrace God’s spirit of truth so that we can make choices demanded by our complicated and complex world with courage, insight and faith,” the bishop said.

Addressing those who would soon join the church, Bishop Nickless noted they had no doubt learned many things about the Catholic faith, but what was most important was their relationship with Jesus.

“If we don’t know Jesus intimately and faithfully, you will never be able to embrace his teachings and the expectations of a follower of Christ,” the bishop said. “When we know Jesus and his extraordinary love for us, only then can we begin to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The rite

Following the homily, Sean Martin called the catechumens forward for the Rite of Election. The unbaptized signed the Book of Elect before taking their place in the sanctuary with their godparents.

During this rite, the bishop questioned the godparents as to the catechumens' readiness in receiving the sacraments and he addressed those in the church, asking them to affirm and support these individuals. He then questioned the catechumens, asking if they wished to enter fully into the life of the church.

A deacon carried the Book of Elect to the bishop and he accepted them as the elect.

The candidates were then called forward during the Call to Continuing Conversion. They took their place in the sanctuary with their sponsors.

The sponsors and general assembly gave affirmation of the candidates to the bishop before he asked the individuals if they wished to continue the process of conversion - to enter fully into the life of the church.

“My friends, the church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s Eucharistic table,” Bishop Nickless said to the candidates.

As the service drew to a close, the bishop bestowed a blessing upon the elect and candidates.

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