Bishop Richard J. Malone welcomed 158 people into the Catholic faith by saying that their call to conversion "may have come as a whisper or as a roar," but in either case, they heard it and opted to say a public, "Yes, Lord, here I am."
On the first Sunday in Lent on March 5, Bishop Malone celebrated the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion, the final stages of preparation to become Catholic, at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. The Rite of Election is for those who have not been baptized and have chosen to live in the Catholic faith. The Call to Continuing Conversion is for those who have been baptized in another Christian tradition, but now wish to become Catholic.
Individuals being initiated into the Catholic faith attended the service with their sponsors, catechumenate teams, parish priests, friends and families. Among the group were a total of 10 children younger than 16, including four of their siblings who will participate in the Rite of Election. This is a pivotal moment for the unbaptized catechumens, who have asked to be initiated into the Church at Easter. Each was declared by Bishop Malone to be the "elect" or "chosen of God."
"I'm very overwhelmed and very excited," one catechumen, Ana Alonzo from St. Bonaventure University, said. "Bishop Malone's homily was definitely very inspiring, definitely got me very emotional, especially when I was going up to sign the Book of the Elect."
Alonzo's sponsor, Natalie Wasek, was excited for Alonzo. "She's learned so much and come so far, and I'm excited to see where she continues to grow and learn because I know, knowing her, she definitely helps influence my faith life," Wasek said.
The bishop also recognized the baptized candidates as people who desire to participate fully in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church. Upon receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Holy Communion, they will also become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church. Full initiation is a moment when the Church rejoices in the journey traveled thus far, and pledges to support catechumens and candidates as they prepare during Lent to receive the Easter sacraments.
"I think that each of us, wherever we are on our pathway of faith, knows that inner restlessness that leads converts to Christ, and leads those who are already baptized and members of the Church to a deeper conversion," Bishop Malone said in his homily.