‘You Are Mine’

UPDATE: At Rite of Election, Bishop says ‘being Catholic makes a difference’

February 23, 2024 at 9:14 a.m.
A parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults team member holds the Book of Elect as the names of the catechumens from her parish are called during the Rite of Election. Mike Ehrmann photo
A parish Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults team member holds the Book of Elect as the names of the catechumens from her parish are called during the Rite of Election. Mike Ehrmann photo

By Angelica Chicaiza, Correspondent

Emilio Robles credits his fiancée and her family for influencing his decision to join the Catholic Church.

“They’re very close to God and have a strong relationship with him. And I grew up never really having that,” he said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Rite of Election 2024

But now that he and his fiancée are planning their wedding and are looking forward to starting a family, Robles very much wants to raise their children Catholic.

“That’s exciting to me,” he said.

Robles of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, shared his story about why he wanted to become Catholic following the Feb. 18 Rite of Election ceremony celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. He was among the nearly 250 catechumens from around the Diocese to declare their intention to become fully initiated Catholics when they receive the Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil March 30.

Others who will be taking a significant step in their journeys to the Catholic Church are those who have been baptized as Catholics or in other Christian faith traditions, but did not have any further religious education in the Catholic faith.

This year, the Diocese reports having 104 non-Catholic candidates and 415 Catholic candidates who are participating in the Call to Continuing Conversion in their parishes, marking the beginning of a time of intense spiritual preparation leading up to when they will receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.

‘Meeting the Challenge’

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on what it means to become Catholic and what it means to be known by that name.

“It means something to you who are catechumens, it means something to your godparents and sponsors, it means something to the community of faith who surrounds you with their witness and prayers and support.

“The name Catholic is a deep and profound identification of what you believe in; what you are called to be and, therefore, how you plan right now to live in this world,” he said.

Although they are related, Bishop O’Connell emphasized there’s a difference between becoming Catholic and being Catholic.

“To become a Catholic is a process that has had a beginning and that will have an end at the Easter Vigil,” he said. Then, looking out at the congregation of catechumens, who were joined by their godparents, family members, sponsors and parish ministers, he said he was sure there were many different motivations that led to the catechumens’ decisions to enter the faith.

When it comes to being a Catholic, “there’s a challenge,” he said, especially when it comes to “living it all out in your daily lives.”

The Bishop urged the soon-to-be new Catholics to remember that during the Rite of Election, God calls them by name to be his.

“You belong to Jesus Christ, you have elected and you have been elected by me, as Bishop, to become part of his Church,” he said.

“To take on the name Christian, to call yourself Catholic, proclaims that you are ready and willing to be known and identified with and witness to the Gospel you believe in,” the Bishop said.

Stevie Quinn, a member of the RCIA team in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, holds the Book of Elect with the signatures of the parish's two catechumens. Mary Stadnyk photo "Your name and your identity, as with all of the baptized in the Church, draw from the person of Jesus Christ,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Being Catholic makes a difference.”


Among the Elect

During the Rite of Election, Denise Contino, director of the diocesan Department of Catechesis, presented the catechumens to Bishop O’Connell.

“Most Reverend Bishop, Easter is drawing near, so the catechumens, whom I now present to you, are completing their period of preparation,” she said.

“They have found their strength in God’s grace and support our community’s prayer and example. Now they ask that, after the celebration of the Scrutinies, they be allowed to participate in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.”

Bishop O’Connell asked the godparents and the assembly to affirm that the catechumens were sufficiently prepared to be enrolled among “the elect,” the name given to the catechumens following their participation in the Rite of Election. The catechumens declared their wish to enter fully into the life of the Church, and their names were read aloud as a parish team member from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults presented each with a Book of the Elect. The catechumens had signed the books in their local faith communities during Rite of Sending ceremonies.

Chosen By God

Katherine Loomis smiled as she spoke about the Rite of Election being a beautiful and humbling day.

Loomis, an elect from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Maple Shade, said her husband introduced her to the Catholic Church. She had experienced other Christian religions — Baptist and Lutheran — but ultimately, she wanted to search “for a place to call my home.”

“I prayed about it and the Lord spoke to me. I decided to convert and join the Catholic Church,” she said. “I’m learning so much. I love it, and I go with my husband every week.”

Rosa Betancourt, an elect from Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Keyport, was excited to hear Bishop O’Connell speak of the elect being more connected to God, “and that is the whole reason why I’m doing this.”

Betancourt credits her godparents as being influential in her decision to become Catholic.

“They’re very connected to the Church, and I want to be like them,” she said. She added that her familiarity with the Catholic Church came from having a grandmother who is Catholic and, as a child, attending Mass with her.

Outside Looking In

Eric Valentin, a freshman finance and economics major at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, is very familiar with the Church and its teachings, having attended St. Aloysius School, Jackson, and Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River.

But Valentin said it was a friend who led to his decision to become Catholic.

Even though he’s attended Mass and has had classes in religion, Valentin said, “I always felt like I was on the outside looking in when I went to Mass.”

And now, attending RCIA in St. Michael Parish, West End, “I enjoy it because it’s reviewing points about the Church I may have forgotten since I was in school.” He added that being at the Rite of Election, with the Easter Vigil approaching, “fills me with immense joy.”

As Robles looked around the Co-Cathedral, he said he was heartened to see so many others who are on similar journeys of faith to the Church.

Junior Sanchez, an elect from St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, said his family is Catholic, but does not practice the faith. He said he came to the decision to become Catholic after researching religions and watching religious videos.

Sanchez said what he most appreciated about his journey, was learning “to never be afraid to follow what you want to achieve.”

“Even if people make fun of you because you go to church, you can’t listen to them,” he said. “Be good and do what you know is right in your heart.”

Mary Stadnyk, associate editor, contributed to this story.

After the ceremony, the parish RCIA groups were invited to have a photo taken with the Bishop. Mike Ehrmann photo

 




Related Stories

Emilio Robles credits his fiancée and her family for influencing his decision to join the Catholic Church.

“They’re very close to God and have a strong relationship with him. And I grew up never really having that,” he said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Rite of Election 2024

But now that he and his fiancée are planning their wedding and are looking forward to starting a family, Robles very much wants to raise their children Catholic.

“That’s exciting to me,” he said.

Robles of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, shared his story about why he wanted to become Catholic following the Feb. 18 Rite of Election ceremony celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. He was among the nearly 250 catechumens from around the Diocese to declare their intention to become fully initiated Catholics when they receive the Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil March 30.

Others who will be taking a significant step in their journeys to the Catholic Church are those who have been baptized as Catholics or in other Christian faith traditions, but did not have any further religious education in the Catholic faith.

This year, the Diocese reports having 104 non-Catholic candidates and 415 Catholic candidates who are participating in the Call to Continuing Conversion in their parishes, marking the beginning of a time of intense spiritual preparation leading up to when they will receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.

‘Meeting the Challenge’

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on what it means to become Catholic and what it means to be known by that name.

“It means something to you who are catechumens, it means something to your godparents and sponsors, it means something to the community of faith who surrounds you with their witness and prayers and support.

“The name Catholic is a deep and profound identification of what you believe in; what you are called to be and, therefore, how you plan right now to live in this world,” he said.

Although they are related, Bishop O’Connell emphasized there’s a difference between becoming Catholic and being Catholic.

“To become a Catholic is a process that has had a beginning and that will have an end at the Easter Vigil,” he said. Then, looking out at the congregation of catechumens, who were joined by their godparents, family members, sponsors and parish ministers, he said he was sure there were many different motivations that led to the catechumens’ decisions to enter the faith.

When it comes to being a Catholic, “there’s a challenge,” he said, especially when it comes to “living it all out in your daily lives.”

The Bishop urged the soon-to-be new Catholics to remember that during the Rite of Election, God calls them by name to be his.

“You belong to Jesus Christ, you have elected and you have been elected by me, as Bishop, to become part of his Church,” he said.

“To take on the name Christian, to call yourself Catholic, proclaims that you are ready and willing to be known and identified with and witness to the Gospel you believe in,” the Bishop said.

Stevie Quinn, a member of the RCIA team in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, holds the Book of Elect with the signatures of the parish's two catechumens. Mary Stadnyk photo "Your name and your identity, as with all of the baptized in the Church, draw from the person of Jesus Christ,” Bishop O’Connell said. “Being Catholic makes a difference.”


Among the Elect

During the Rite of Election, Denise Contino, director of the diocesan Department of Catechesis, presented the catechumens to Bishop O’Connell.

“Most Reverend Bishop, Easter is drawing near, so the catechumens, whom I now present to you, are completing their period of preparation,” she said.

“They have found their strength in God’s grace and support our community’s prayer and example. Now they ask that, after the celebration of the Scrutinies, they be allowed to participate in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.”

Bishop O’Connell asked the godparents and the assembly to affirm that the catechumens were sufficiently prepared to be enrolled among “the elect,” the name given to the catechumens following their participation in the Rite of Election. The catechumens declared their wish to enter fully into the life of the Church, and their names were read aloud as a parish team member from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults presented each with a Book of the Elect. The catechumens had signed the books in their local faith communities during Rite of Sending ceremonies.

Chosen By God

Katherine Loomis smiled as she spoke about the Rite of Election being a beautiful and humbling day.

Loomis, an elect from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Maple Shade, said her husband introduced her to the Catholic Church. She had experienced other Christian religions — Baptist and Lutheran — but ultimately, she wanted to search “for a place to call my home.”

“I prayed about it and the Lord spoke to me. I decided to convert and join the Catholic Church,” she said. “I’m learning so much. I love it, and I go with my husband every week.”

Rosa Betancourt, an elect from Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Keyport, was excited to hear Bishop O’Connell speak of the elect being more connected to God, “and that is the whole reason why I’m doing this.”

Betancourt credits her godparents as being influential in her decision to become Catholic.

“They’re very connected to the Church, and I want to be like them,” she said. She added that her familiarity with the Catholic Church came from having a grandmother who is Catholic and, as a child, attending Mass with her.

Outside Looking In

Eric Valentin, a freshman finance and economics major at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, is very familiar with the Church and its teachings, having attended St. Aloysius School, Jackson, and Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River.

But Valentin said it was a friend who led to his decision to become Catholic.

Even though he’s attended Mass and has had classes in religion, Valentin said, “I always felt like I was on the outside looking in when I went to Mass.”

And now, attending RCIA in St. Michael Parish, West End, “I enjoy it because it’s reviewing points about the Church I may have forgotten since I was in school.” He added that being at the Rite of Election, with the Easter Vigil approaching, “fills me with immense joy.”

As Robles looked around the Co-Cathedral, he said he was heartened to see so many others who are on similar journeys of faith to the Church.

Junior Sanchez, an elect from St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, said his family is Catholic, but does not practice the faith. He said he came to the decision to become Catholic after researching religions and watching religious videos.

Sanchez said what he most appreciated about his journey, was learning “to never be afraid to follow what you want to achieve.”

“Even if people make fun of you because you go to church, you can’t listen to them,” he said. “Be good and do what you know is right in your heart.”

Mary Stadnyk, associate editor, contributed to this story.

After the ceremony, the parish RCIA groups were invited to have a photo taken with the Bishop. Mike Ehrmann photo

 



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