Rite of Election welcomes catechumens
Only two days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, the tragic deaths and loss of homes and material possessions served as a reminder that most of us will need help at one time or another.
Antime or another. Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo brought home this message as he spoke to three separate groups of catechumens who will be baptized and enter the sacramental life of the Catholic Church at the Easter vigil in many parishes throughout the diocese on April 23.
“When you have no more home, no more town, you come to the end of the line in human expectations,” the Bishop said in the homily at the Rite of Election of Catechumens.
“There’s a point in life when we say ‘I need help,’” he added. The Elect — those who have not been baptized — gathered with their godparents, family and friends at St. Bede Church in Williamsburg and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Saturday, March 12. They gathered the next day at Our Lady of Nazareth Church in Roanoke.
During the rite the catechumens were asked to stand from their pew as their parish name was called. They were later affirmed for their readiness by their godparents and the entire assembly.
In his homily Bishop DiLorenzo said many children have a vision of what it is like to be a teenager and teens are eager to become young adults with visions of how life will be. But often the reality of what happens is a disappointment.
“We come to the border as it were and those fantasies of what we want to do and say ‘I need help,’” he said.
Recalling the Biblical parable of the wheat and the weeds, Bishop DiLorenzo said some wanted to cut down the weeds, but the owner of the field said no because it would perhaps damage the wheat.
“The kingdom is going to have both wheat and weeds along the way,” Bishop DiLorenzo said, adding that there would also be a harvest and there will be a separation of the weeds from the wheat.
“In point of fact, people still make bad choices,” the Bishop said. Those who know God and Christ will also make bad choices at times, but have a chance to start over.
Those who choose to be baptized are part of the Kingdom of God and are choosing to embrace the light and reject the darkness.
“While there is still time, we can say ‘thank you, God’ for that chance to begin again,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. “There is hope and there is help. Christ is our hope and our help.”
Among the catechumens at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart are a husband and wife, both of whom are physicians, and their three children. Dr. Minh Bui, a cardiologist, and his wife, Dr. Chau Bui, an optometrist, have three children, Andrew, 12; David, 8 and Victoria, 6, all students at the Nuckols Road School in western Henrico County.
The parents were both born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1975 after the fall of Saigon. The father came with his family to Pennsylvania and his wife’s family settled in California. “We were the first wave of the refugees after the war ended,” Dr. Minh Bui said. The couple did not meet, however, until much later in California.
“I grew up with no religion even though my parents were Buddhists but they did not practice,” Dr. Chau Bui said.
The family had visited different churches as they sought to learn about Christianity and found what they wanted to be their permanent church home when they came to the Cathedral.
“We felt very comfortable with the people there,” Dr. Minh Bui said. “Father Patrick Golden (rector of the Cathedral) is wonderful. He makes complex things understandable.”
“We fell in love with the beauty of the Cathedral,” his wife said. “It’s a wonderful place to worship every week. “It reminds you of the glory of God, don’t you think?” she added.
“We want our children to be Christian,” Dr. Minh Bui told The Catholic Virginian. “We want our family life to be more meaningful and want God to be the center of our life.
“Over the years we were so busy,” he continued. “Finally our children got to the age where we can now go together as a family.”
Shayla Sobers, a catechumen from St. Paul’s in Richmond, is becoming a Catholic after being inspired by the example of her cousin, Tonya who worshipped at St. Joseph’s Church in Petersburg.
“When she passed from cancer at age 47, that’s what pushed me to become more involved in the Christian community as she was,” Ms. Sobers said.
Originally from New York City, she moved to Richmond three years ago. Her previous church experiences were with the Baptist Church, but she never was baptized. She began sessions with the RCIA at St. Joseph’s, but then moved to Richmond and wanted to continue the spiritual journey she had begun. She needed to find a Catholic church.
“I just looked in the yellow pages of the phone book to find the nearest Catholic church to my home,” Ms. Sobers said. She called the St. Paul’s church office and spoke with Sister Betty Pflieger, RCIA coordinator, to hear about the class schedule.
“I’ve been going to classes every Tuesday since then,” she said. “I found it very interesting and very helpful in my everyday life about having patience and how I should treat others.”
“It is amazing to see the spiritual formation that takes place within each person who goes through the process,” Sister Betty told The Catholic Virginian.
She pointed out that often catechumens who are older find themselves uncomfortable when they are asked why they never were baptized. They feel different because almost everybody else in the RCIA program is already baptized.
Being part of the Rite of Election in which so many other adults share the same journey is reassuring to them.
“It was exciting for Shayla to witness so many other adults who had not been baptized and who were also walking on this journey,” Sister Betty said.
St. Joseph’s Parish in Petersburg has one catechumen, Linda Buettner. In addition, two candidates who have already been baptized, will receive the full sacraments of the Church at Easter.
“The RCIA, through the catechumens and candidates, has a way of energizing the whole Church,” Father J. Morton Biber, St. Joseph’s pastor, told The Catholic Virginian.
“Linda has brought a great commitment and joy in the process of preparing for sacramental initiation,” he added.
St. Bede Parish in Williamsburg has eight catechumens who will be baptized and 12 candidates who will be received into full communion with the Church at Easter.
Under the guidance of Msgr. Michael McCarron, pastor, St. Bede’s had placed ads in the Williamsburg Gazette and the Williamsburg section of the (Newport News) Daily Press with an image of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms and the heading “Discover God’s love for you. Discover the Catholic Church.”
“Msgr. McCarron throws the net wide by using the local newspapers,” said Deacon Dominic Cerrato, director of adult faith formation at St. Bede’s.
“The purpose is not to be moving toward some thing, but to some One — Jesus Christ,” he explained. “That’s a little different way of telling our story.
“It’s orienting someone to an intimate communion with Jesus. It’s rooted in Pope John Paul II’s personalist approach.”
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