Local News Archive
Print Issue: February 28, 2002
Print Issue: February 28, 2002
|'A Wonderful Sign Of Hope' More Than 2,500 Celebrate Journey Of Faith In Rite Of Christian Initiation|
By Erika Anderson, Staff Writer
ATLANTA-For Sean Fitzgibbons, the journey toward Catholicism has been paved with peace. "It's like putting on your favorite bathrobe, then putting on your most comfortable slippers and sitting down to a hot cup of coffee or tea," she said. "I feel safe. I feel like I've come full circle-like I've come home."
Fitzgibbons was among the approximately 1,200 candidates, those who have been baptized and will receive the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist at Easter, and 515 catechumens, who will be baptized for the first time and will also receive the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist, who participated in the 21st annual Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. The event was held in one ceremony Feb. 16 at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. Including the catechumens and the candidates, more than 4,000 people attended the rite this year.
The vast earth-colored room was significantly warmed by the sparks of faith as the ceremony, in which candidates and catechumens express their desire to become Catholic, began. Gleaming bowls of incense were brought forth from the four corners of the room, coming together in the center of two stages. Two kites-a red kite with a streaming tail soaring over the people like tongues of fire, and a blue one reminiscent of water washing over the congregation like waves of reconciliation-flew overhead attached to long poles.
Cantors Janis Griffin and Sam Hagan, accompanied by a large choir, led the congregation in singing "Amazing Grace," followed by a welcoming and opening prayer from Archbishop John F. Donoghue.
"This celebration is a wonderful sign of hope. A sign that, despite all the evil the world has seen, God continues to be faithful to the people he calls his own by choosing them to participate in His reign," he said. "Our catechumens and candidates are a sign of new life by which God makes His presence known."
Following a Scripture reading, responsorial psalm and Gospel, Archbishop Donoghue said that while Jesus spent his 40 days of temptation in the desert, he won the gift of conversion for the people.
"Conversion begins with our soul's natural hunger for God, for salvation and for unending life-it is planted in us, never to leave, with the indelible waters of Baptism-it is anointed into our being, and made our vocation with the sacred oils of Confirmation-and it lives with us every day of our lives, in the life of the Church, in the journey of all faithful men and women, the journey from darkness into light, from the night of love never won, into the days of love won forever," he said.
The archbishop told those converting that for them, unlike cradle Catholics for whom Lent is a lifelong habit, this season is a new experience.
"But for you whose day this is-for you the Catechumens and Candidates, this is a new journey, the first of many to come," he said. "And your embarkation is a day of great rejoicing-for those who know and love you personally, and for the Church Universal, she who loves you in the Holy Spirit of Christ the Lord."
"And as we know, and attest to you with all conviction, this first Lenten journey will end, not in a final destination, not in a point of termination, but in a feast of beginnings..."
After the homily, the parish director of the Rite of Christian Initiation read aloud the names of the catechumens, who came forward, along with their godparents. They came holding hands with their godchildren or offering a supportive arm around their shoulders, as they stood behind the catechumens, to offer their support on their respective faith journeys toward Easter and beyond.
For catechumens such as Chris Carter from St. Patrick's Church in Norcross, it was "amazing to see so many people in the same situation" as he was. Carter, who married a Catholic woman almost five years ago, said that after the birth of his daughter in December 2001, he knew it was time to make the commitment to the church.
"It made sense as something I needed to do as a family member, but then I found that it was a little more important that that," he said. "It was helpful for my own personal benefit. Yes, it will help my family, but having that knowledge and that faith has given me a lot more community, has given me confidence, and just opened doors for me."
Carter said that he has found more than just friends in the RCIA community at St. Patrick's.
"Besides being my friends, they have given me moral support and spiritual support-they're a little bit different than just the average neighbor," he said. "They have patience for my ignorance and they don't judge me for my status."
Carter, 31, said that he has been most touched by learning more about the sacrament of marriage.
"It made me realize how much more of an eternity it is," he said. "It's kind of like an elite club that I hadn't realized I belonged to."
For Fitzgibbons, from Transfiguration Church, Marietta, who grew up in the Church of Christ, she was always attracted to the rituals of the Catholic church, but said that it was "fear" that held her back. Now that she has found her way to the Catholic Church, she is looking forward to joining her husband, Mike, a lifelong Catholic, and having her two children baptized in the church.
"I feel like I'm one step closer to God, that he's hearing my whispers a little louder. It's like buying a new car with all the bells and whistles. Sometimes I just sit back (with a contented sigh) and say 'I'm Catholic,'" she said.
GATHERING RITE--Incense bearers (clockwise from left) Eddy Torres, Jessica Wood, Tammy Chu and Ray Miller meet in the center of the floor as the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion gets underway, which brought together approximately 515 catechumens and 1,200 candidates from around the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
RECOGNITION OF NAMES--Luke Kien Pham, parish director for Our Lady of Vietnam Church, Riverdale, presents the parish Book of the Elect to Archbishop John F. Donoghue.
INSPIRE THEM IN FAITH--Dominica Lee of the Korean Martyrs Catholic Center, Doraville, reads one of six intercessions in her native tongue of Korean. Other intercessions were read in Nigerian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and English.
JOY AND SUPPORT--The multitude of catechumens, parents and godparents
AMEN--Catechumens, candidates, sponsors, godparents, parents and religious education instructors from Our Lady of Vietnam Church, Riverdale, stand for the final blessing.
RECESSIONAL HYMN--Thousands join the catechumens and candidates on hand for the 21st annual Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion in singing the closing song, "Here I Am, Lord."