Just what is the rite of election? Who participates?

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, February 21, 2016

Just what is the rite of election? Who participates?

Auxiliary Bishop John Manz greets catechumen Vanessa Graebe from Holy Innocents Parish at a Rite of Election liturgy at Holy Name Cathedral on Feb. 14. The litugy is for those preparing to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation during the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday) services in their local parishes. During this liturgy, those who have not been baptized are called forward to the front of the cathedral, where the bishop elects them for the Easter sacraments. Those coming into full communion in the church (the baptized) are also called forward. The bishop recognizes them and calls them to continued conversion. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Bishop Manz asks questsions of the catechumens during one of five Rite of Election liturgies at Holy Name Cathedral. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Leticia Chavez, from St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish, receives an official seal for the "Book of the Elect" from Jacqueline Moyeno, Office for Divine Worship, during the service. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Parish representatives hold the Book of the Elect during the liturgy. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Christian Fuentes from Mission Juan Diego in Arlington Heights, smiles as he is called by Bishop Manz. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Catechumens listen to Bishop Manz during the service. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

“It was very, very moving.” That’s how Donna Bukowski of St. Alexander Parish in Palos Heights described the rite of election at Holy Name Cathedral on Feb. 14. Bukowski is one of the 500 candidates coming into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. Five hundred others will be baptized and will enter the church that evening too.

As Bukowski walked back to her pew from the sanctuary where all the catechumens (non-baptized) and candidates (already baptized) were elected and recognized by Auxiliary Bishop John Manz, she wiped tears from her eyes.

“I’m so excited. Just being up there and hearing the congregation accepting us, it’s very moving,” she said. Bukowski is converting from the Lutheran church.

The Archdiocese of Chicago holds five rites of election each Lent.

“It’s when the bishop of the diocese recognizes God’s choice of the people for baptism,” said Todd Williamson, director of the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship. “It’s actually rather profound.”

Some dioceses celebrate this rite on its own but the Archdiocese of Chicago combines it with the rite calling baptized converts to continuing conversion.

The rite of election is for unbaptized people, or catechumens, going through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. It is the formal liturgy that marks the end of the period of the catechumenate. Through this rite they are transformed into the “elect.”

“In the rite, literally the church recognizes that God has already chosen these people for baptism,” Williamson explained.

After a service with Scripture readings and a homily by the bishop, catechumens are called up into the sanctuary.

The bishop then asks the catechists, pastors and sponsors in the congregation to attest to the catechumens’ preparation to enter the church.

“Before we elect these the church needs to know are they ready. Have they listened to the word of God? Have they participated in the prayer of the church?” Williamson explained.

Then the bishop turns to catechumens and asks if it’s their will become part of Christ’s body in the church. Similar questions are asked of the candidates and their sponsors.

At that point, the catechumens become the elect. They write their names in a parish registry, which is verified by the archdiocese.

Then they are sent back to the pews.

“The whole building erupts in applause. It can be such an emotional moment,” Williamson said. “Because they are different now. They are the elect. They are known by another name.”

For 16 years, Terry Navarro, director of religious education for St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, has brought catechumens and candidates to the rite.

“This is one of the most spirit-filled days we celebrate in the church,” she said. “All these people coming into the church, it is so uplifting, so promising.”


  • holy name cathedral
  • baptism
  • st. alexander
  • converts
  • conversion

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