In their final step to becoming Catholic, members of the elect and their sponsors gathered Sunday at St. Mary’s Cathedral for a bilingual rite of election. Hundreds of new Catholics have participated in rites over the past few weeks throughout western Oregon.
As he stood before the congregation of English and Spanish-speakers, Archbishop John G. Vlazny remarked that celebrating the rite of election for the past 15 years has been a special privilege for him. He switched fluidly between English and Spanish.
Members of the elect will join the church at Easter, a time of renewal. This year marks an abundance of transition for Catholics in the Archdiocese of Portland, as well as Catholics all over the world, with the installation of a new archbishop and election of a new pope on the horizon.
“So many things will be new – so much new hope, so much new faith in our community,” said the archbishop, addressing the fledgling members of the church.
On March 30, the candidates and catechumens will be entered into the fold by means of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. Catechumens are non-baptized persons who will become full members of the church through the sacraments of initiation. Candidates are those who were baptized as infants, and are preparing for confirmation and Eucharist. The Rite of Election marks the culmination of an extended period of study and discernment. Sponsors accompany them as they go through the RCIA process.
One of the young candidates, Elizabeth Solheim, stood outside after the rite, embracing her mother Marcie. They are members of St. Matthew Church in Hillsboro. The 14-year-old said she has truly enjoyed learning about the faith and its rich history. She looks forward to Easter, and the start of a lifelong relationship with her new faith community.
Tammy McCausland married into a Catholic family and has long been exposed to the beautiful tradition of Catholicism and complexity of the liturgy. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, she spent many years away from faith life. Then she began attending services at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland. There, she felt welcomed and loved.
“I knew it was a time in my life to really embrace Jesus,” she said.
Midge Scott, RCIA leader at St. Joseph the Worker, joined the elect from her parish. During 20 years of teaching RCIA, she has accompanied many groups of new Catholics to the cathedral for this part of their path to Catholicism.
“Every year is different,” Scott said. “They come together and have different dynamics. This year’s group has been amazing.”
During his homily, the archbishop made a point to recognize the sponsors.
“You’ve obviously had a good influence on our elect,” he said. He then addressed the entire group.
“Faith is about relationships,” he said. “Most important is our relationship or friendship with God, but second is our relationship with one another as children of God,” he said. That is why they are called together as a community to carry out the work of Jesus, the archbishop said.