By Steve Neill, Of The Catholic Virginian
Cody Hahn, a 7-year-old second grader at a Chesterfield County public school, who is eagerly seeking baptism at Easter, was among the catechumens who was present for the Rite of Election March 5 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
While Cody’s parents are fully supportive of Cody’s baptism at Easter, he received somewhat of a nudge from his aunt, his mother’s sister, and her husband and Cody’s uncle who will be the godparents.
Kate Pavell, Cody’s godmother, told The Catholic Virginian that she and her sister have been members of Church of the Epiphany in Chesterfield County since they were both children and received first Eucharist and Confirmation there.
Cody’s upcoming baptism has brought about a renewal of religious fervor for the Catholic faith in the extended family.
“My dad grew up Catholic and in Catholic school,” Mrs. Pavell said. Her mother was Baptist at the time she was married, but later became Catholic after experiencing the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at Epiphany.
“My dad thought that the Catholic Church was the best place to teach us about Christianity and to prepare us for the sacraments and salvation,” Mrs. Pavell said.
But she agreed it was important to first do “due diligence” in deciding to take the next step to enter the Catholic Church.
“We desire to be good Christians and the Catholic Church does the best job, I feel, in teaching us how to live the Gospel in our daily life,” she added.
Cody’s two younger sisters will be baptized soon after Easter.
Mrs. Pavell’s infant son, Alexander, will be baptized April 29 at Epiphany.
“In the eyes of the Church all who are age seven and older are treated as adults and receive the sacraments of initiation through the RCIA,” explained Katie McMaster, associate director of the Diocese’s Office of Christian Formation.
In addition to the Rite of Election at the Cathedral on both March 4 and 5 with Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo presiding, there were three other sites where the liturgy was held.
Msgr. Walter Barrett, Episcopal Vicar of the Eastern Vicariate, presided at Immaculate Conception in Hampton, and Msgr. Francis Muench, Judicial Vicar and Episcopal Vicar for the Central Vicariate, presided at St. Gregory the Great in Virginia Beach. Both events were held March 4.
Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, Vicar General of the Diocese, presided at the Rite of Election March 5 at St. Andrew’s in Roanoke.
The Liturgy of the Word included a reading from the Old Testament, Responsorial Psalm, second reading from the New Testament and Gospel. The presider gave the homily.
As each parish was called the catechumens stood with the RCIA coordinator from each parish holding the Book of the Elect. As the names of the catechumens were read, each RCIA coordinator came forward holding the Book of the Elect prominently and joined the other coordinators on the altar.
In all, there were 383 catechumens from 69 parishes in the Diocese of Richmond.
As a sign of affirmation, the godparents and then the assembly were invited to affirm the readiness of the catechumens for the Easter sacraments and their willingness to hold them in prayer.
In his message to catechumens and their godparents at the Cathedral, Bishop DiLorenzo said that many would likely recall the stories of outlaw Jesse James, bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid among others whose stories were told in the movies.
“They were actually real people,” he said. “This wasn’t just a movie, they were real people.”
And in more recent times there was New York financier Bernie Madoff, “who had no trouble taking money from people and spending it.”
But in the cases of their wrongdoing, three factors allowed these injustices to happen.
“First their victims were very vulnerable, they were not watching over themselves,” Bishop DiLorenzo said.
“The criminals also had opportunity and their rationale was that they did it because they felt the system was rigged against them.”
There still seemed to be a sense of satisfaction among these criminals, the Bishop suggested.
“There was a deep hole that money and possessions cannot fill,” he said.
In reference to the Book of Genesis, God created man and woman with Adam and Eve who soon yielded to temptation.
“The devil entered into their hearts and they thought they could be equal to God,” Bishop DiLorenzo said.
“I don’t need you anymore, God,” they said.
As a result “they were filled with guilt and shame,” the Bishop asserted, adding they blamed God and the serpent.
It is important, Bishop DiLorenzo said, to have God in our life. Without God there seems to be a restlessness and search for self-sufficiency.
“Saint Augustine put it best,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
While those who embrace God may fall into temptation and make mistakes, all is not lost.
“If we give in to temptation and do bad things, there is hope for forgiveness.
“You want to have the Lord in your life,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. “It is God who gives us self-sufficiency.”
In the Act of Election Brittany Mangano, a mother of two young children, will be baptized at Easter at Epiphany. She credits her husband’s family which she called “very religious” as bringing about her conversion.
She does not know why she was not baptized because her parents were Lutherans and her mother had attended a Lutheran school as a child.
At about age 8 she began attending a non-denominational church with her mother and stepfather and began worshipping at a Catholic church when she met her husband.
“My husband’s grandmother is very religious, always praying for her family and friends and always very caring,” Mrs. Mangano said. “She is a good example to me.”
Her daughter, who will be four in April, and her five-month-old son have already been baptized.
Her upcoming baptism and reception of the Church’s sacraments is freely chosen and she has no reservations about the decision she is making.
“I love God and I know He loves me,” she said.