What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: March 9, 2006
I just survived a fantastic pastoral workout! This weekend, I celebrated four separate Rites of Election throughout the Archdiocese. I must begin my column this week with a public expression of gratitude to all those who worked with Father Theodore Book and Deacon Lloyd Sutter (and especially Father Book and Deacon Sutter themselves) in organizing these events. The four parishes who hosted these ceremonies were truly generous in opening up their facilities and providing such a gracious environment. About 4,000 people assembled in these four parishes. Some were catechumens and candidates, others were sponsors and godparents, and still others were directors of the RCIA programs in our Archdiocese, priests, deacons, and musicians. Each one helped this local Church to begin the Lenten season by focusing on those who will join the Catholic Church at the next Easter Vigil.
The catechumens and elect are a wonderful expression of the rich diversity of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The garb and languages that filled our churches this past weekend reflected the multicultural nature of our people. How wonderful to look into the faces of these people who are eager to join us at the Altar of the Lord. Most of them have come to this point in their lives because they have met Catholics who have touched their hearts, inspired them, cared for them, and loved them. We Catholics are the primary agents of evangelization in the way that we present ourselves to others. We might also occasionally be the single obstacle that prevents a person from entering the Church. But this weekend, from the many people who shared in these celebrations, it seems that we are doing a credible job in welcoming people to join us in the Lord’s Church.
The people who came to these events are eager to join the Church. There is an excitement in their voice and observable on their faces. How many of us are excited about our Faith? The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults provides excitement for those who are catechists and sponsors and godparents for the candidates and catechumens. I have heard from more than a few people that they have rediscovered an enthusiasm for the Faith through their involvement in the RICA. Some have told me that they have learned more about their Catholic faith by sharing in the formation of those who are coming to the Church for the first time during the RCIA.
Perhaps as the Shepherd of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, I hear many of the more touching experiences that surround this wondrous expression of the Church’s vitality than do most others. People have whispered some of the secrets of their lives as they stand at the door of the church or stop by at the reception that follows the Rite of Election.
“Archbishop, I was baptized a Catholic, but when I moved here to Atlanta there wasn’t a Catholic Church nearby so I drifted away from the practice of my Faith. I’m glad to be back!” “I met this wonderful Catholic girl, and I want to share everything with her, especially her Faith!” “I was received into the Catholic faith last year, and I am now the sponsor for my friend.” There are literally thousands of reasons that people have that draw them to the Church. Let us pray that they will continue to find many more reasons to keep them close to us all in the years that will lie ahead.