Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Over 500 presented at Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion

February 28, 2024

On the first and second Sundays of Lent, thousands of parishioners from around the archdiocese gathered at Holy Name Cathedral to welcome adults preparing for initiation into the Catholic Church.

In all, more than 500 catechumens and candidates were presented by fellow parishioners and pastors in a formal ceremony called the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. At one of the four scheduled ceremonies presided over by me; Bishop Robert Casey, vicar general of the archdiocese; or Bishop Mark Bartosic, vicar of Vicariate II, each of the elect came forward and was welcomed personally by us.

To understand what this means for the church, it is important to recall that this liturgy of welcome is part of the Second Vatican Council’s restoration of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Prior to the council, adults coming into the church prepared for and celebrated baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist privately with their parish priests. The council fathers rightly found this privatized approach wanting, as it was not in keeping with the ancient and scriptural understanding that becoming a Christian is about being received into the community of faith, becoming a member of the Body of Christ.

For this reason, when a person makes a decision to inquire about entering the Catholic Church, they begin a period of discernment and preparation with the community. These women and men enter the “pre-catechumenate,” a phase of inquiry and evangelization in which they come to understand and accept what it means to acknowledge that Christ is calling them into the church through the movement of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

At a certain point, most often at the start of the new liturgical year with Advent, the church celebrates the Rite of Acceptance, in which they formally become members of the catechumenate. They continue their preparation through ongoing conversion, learning and formation in the traditions, customs, and teachings of the church, through the study of Scripture, faith sharing and participation in the Liturgy of the Word.

The final stage before initiation begins with the Rite of Election. This is a public declaration by the bishop and the community at the beginning of Lent that each of the catechumens is ready to proceed with full initiation at Easter. Each catechumen comes forward and is personally welcomed by the bishop and responds to the church that they are willing to continue the journey of their conversion leading to the initiation rites at the Easter Vigil.

In a parallel way, those who became Christian through baptism in a non-Catholic community also prepare during the year with a parish team through a series of instructions and faith sharing, which moves them towards completing their initiation into the Catholic Church through confirmation and first Eucharist.

These people are called “candidates,” to distinguish them from the “catechumens,” yet they too are received at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, with the public declaration by the bishop and the community that they are ready to complete their initiation into the Catholic Church through the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist.

After the Easter Vigil Mass, the newly baptized continue their journey into the church through period of reflection called “mystagogical catechesis.” This is a time of reflection and celebration, which, as the word “mystagogia” suggests, is about leading them deeper into the mystery of our faith and strengthening them to go into the world and proclaim the kingdom of God.

This year, not only did we see an increase in the number of both catechumens and candidates, but most of them were under the age of 30. One hundred forty-five parish communities presented 366 adult catechumens and 192 adult candidates at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.

This growing number is a great sign for the future of the church, especially when we consider that other parish communities, who could not be present at the cathedral for the Rite of Election, are also preparing catechumens and candidates.

I take this moment to thank all of the parishioners and pastors who are involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and encourage all Catholics to be responsive to those still seeking spiritual nourishment and who have expressed interest in knowing Christ and joining our faith communities.