Sunday, February 14, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, today addressed those gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. This Easter, 1,375 adults, teens and children will be baptized or confirmed as Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington. The individuals come from almost every parish and six university campuses located across the archdiocese.
Each of the individuals at the liturgy has a unique and personal story of their faith. For Christie Jones, 44, it was Pope Francis’ September visit to Washington, D.C., which inspired and motivated her to take the steps to become a full member of the Catholic Church. “I was interested in becoming Catholic for more than a decade,” Jones shared. “It never felt like the time was right and life got in the way. For some reason or another, I didn’t do it.” According to Jones, that changed in September as she watched the Holy Father reach out to all members of the Washington community. “The way he put people first and the love he showed both Catholics and non-Catholics, it hit me and I thought, ‘Yes, this is the right time,’” said Jones. “I want to be a part of what he is giving to the Church and the world.”
At the beginning of Lent, which is the period of penance and reflection observed by Catholics leading up to the celebration of Easter, those who are being received into the Catholic Church are presented to the local bishop in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. This liturgy marks the participants’ formal public expression of their desire to become Catholic and kicks off a final period of intense spiritual preparation.
In his homily at the liturgy today, Cardinal Wuerl said, “Your call to conversion is a visible sign that women and men, young and old, from all walks of life, are continuing to respond to our Lord’s invitation: ‘Come, follow me.’ Jesus continues to challenge those who seek God to ‘come and see’ where he is found today, in his Church – among the people of God, in the Body of Christ, within the Temple of the Holy Spirit.”
The cardinal continued, “As you step forward into the Shrine’s sanctuary today, remember that you have been touched in a special way on your journey of faith by the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Spirit who transforms hearts and changes lives. He is the principal agent of evangelization. Each of you seeking to enter the Church has a different experience of how you were inspired to take this step. Often the Spirit worked through the witness and example of family members, a spouse, a fiancé, friends, coworkers or neighbors who help bring you to Christ and his Church. We are reminded that the work of everyday evangelization is to help others to find and keep the joy we have known in the Holy Spirit who leads us and empowers us to share our faith.”
“I ask you to see in all of these visible signs and actions something not seen but real and present – the grace of God – touching you, your heart, your soul,” said the cardinal.
The cardinal concluded his homily by reminding the elect (those preparing for baptism) and the candidates (already-baptized Christians seeking to be received fully into the Catholic Church) that they do not walk alone. “The godparents of the elect and the sponsors of the candidates represent a small part of a very large family of faith that is waiting to welcome you on Easter as you receive the sacraments of initiation. In our parishes and our broader archdiocese, let us accompany and support them.”
After the homily, the elect and candidates were presented to the cardinal and approached the sanctuary where he welcomed them. At the Easter Vigil on March 26, the celebration of the sacraments of initiation will take place, and the elect will celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist while the candidates will celebrate Confirmation and the Eucharist.
In the Archdiocese of Washington, the rite is held annually at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception over two Sundays to accommodate the large number of people who participate and bring their family members to share in this significant day in their spiritual life. The second liturgy will be held on Sunday, February 21, 2016.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.