Monday, March 13, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This Easter, more than 1,100 adults, teens and children will be baptized or confirmed as Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington. They joined Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. Due to the large number of participants from approximately 95 parishes and four university campuses, the liturgy was held on two consecutive Sundays, March 5 and March 12. This allows the individuals to bring their family members to share in this significant day in their spiritual life.
At the beginning of Lent, the period of penance and reflection observed by Catholics leading up to the celebration of Easter, those being received into the Catholic Church are presented to the local bishop in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. This liturgy, where participants publicly express their desire to become Catholic, kicks off a final period of intense spiritual preparation.
In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl reminded the catechumens and candidates present at the basilica, “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.”
While the candidates and catechumens step forward as a visible declaration of their desire to enter the church, what is really at work is what you can’t see – the Holy Spirit touching hearts, the cardinal continued. “As you step forward for this recognition of your call and even when you receive the sacraments, what you’ll see are outward signs, but what is really taking place is the power and work of the Holy Spirit.”
Cardinal Wuerl asked that the catechumens and candidates see in these signs the welcome into the church, something very real. It is not incidental that you’re here, he said. You have been brought to come, see and follow God.
Each participant has a unique and personal story of their faith. For Jon Skramstad, an economics student at The George Washington University, faith provided the sense of joy and peace he needed to overcome personal battles that kept him up at night. “As a hyper-rational person it was hard to ask for help, but one night I asked for help and in doing so, felt something bigger than myself.” As his problems seemed to vanish overnight, Skramstad knew he had to explore the feeling he describes as “overwhelming love,” which ultimately lead him to the Catholic Church.
The multilingual liturgy at the basilica welcomed those just beginning their faith journey into the Catholic Church with Baptism, as well as individuals who have already been baptized but will be receiving the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil (April 15) this year. Each participant received a copy of The Sacraments, a Continuing Encounter with Christ from the cardinal.
After the homily, the elect and candidates were presented by name, individually to the cardinal and each approached the sanctuary where he welcomed them personally. Cardinal Wuerl was joined by auxiliary bishops, Bishop Barry Knestout and Bishop Mario Dorsonville on March 5, and by Bishop Knestout and Bishop-elect Roy Campbell, Jr. on March 12. Bishop-elect Campbell was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington by Pope Francis on March 8.
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.