Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Busy 1st Weekend of Lent

So much happening this weekend!
Dome of St. Patrick Cathedral, Harrisburg
  • During the 4pm Saturday evening Mass, the members of our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) will celebrate the "Rite of Sending."  They have been studying and learning and praying for months, and at this Mass the celebrate a significant moment in their preparation to receive the Easter Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist).  During Mass we will formally send them, with our blessings, to Bishop McFadden who, on Sunday afternoon, will officially welcome them as members of the "Elect" - those preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil.  Those who will celebrate this Rite are: Paul Brandes, Janis Coyle, Shane Strommer, Paul Frechette, Randy Freeman, Kurt Kemerer, Courtney Lake, Brooke Mendyka, Christopher Garling, Nathan Frechette & Corey Rodgers.

  • Following the 10:45am Mass we will officially bless and break ground for our new parish & school office buildings - construction will begin on Monday, March 14.  What a wonderful moment in the life of our parish!  New, accessible offices which will provide suitable areas in which our staff can work - and new spaces for additional meetings.  A much needed addition!

  • Then, on Sunday afternoon, the actual Rite of Election with Bishop McFadden at Saint Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.  The Rite of Election marks the beginning of the final, intensive period of preparation of catechumens (those not baptized) for the sacraments of initiation, celebrated at the Easter Vigil.
Saint Patrick Cathedral, Harrisburg
During the ceremony, the church, through the person of the bishop "elects” the catechumens, declaring that they will receive the sacraments of initiation at the vigil. From the time of the Rite of Election until the time of their initiation, the catechumens are referred to as “members of the elect."
Around the country, there are usually about 150,000 people who join the church every year through the RCIA process.  Here at Saint Andrew we have had extraordinarily large classes the last two years.  Here in the Diocese of Harrisburg there is such a large number of people joining the Church that we cannot bring all of them to the Cathedral for one ceremony, so we celebrate two (one at 3pm and another at 7pm).  
Also during that ceremony we celebrated the “Call to Continuing Conversion,” in which those individuals already baptized who are preparing for entrance into the Catholic Church are recognized and encouraged to continue their spiritual preparation.

The RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) actually is comprised of 4 separate periods of formation:


Nave of St. Patrick Cathedral, Harrisburg
The first stage is called the period of inquiry (or the precatechumenate). This is when the individual first expresses an interest in becoming a Christian or a Catholic, and begins to explore, with the help of the parish community, what his or her relationship with Christ might be and how that might be enriched and deepened by joining this Christian community. There is no liturgical rite to mark the beginning of this stage. This period of inquiry may last several months or several years and ends either when the inquirer decides against continuing in this direction or when the inquirer feels ready to move on and the community is prepared to welcome him or her.


The second stage is called the catechumenate and, for the unbaptized listed above, who are now called catechumens, should last no less than one full year. For the baptized but uncatechized the period should be a similar length. For the candidates for full communion, this stage could well be much shorter. The Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and the Rite of Welcoming mark the beginning of this stage, and our parish celebrated this rite back in September. Catechesis for this period is rooted in the Lectionary and the Word as it is proclaimed in the midst of the community (which is why they are ordinarily “dismissed” from the 10:45am Mass to continue “breaking open the Word”). This is also a time for the catechumen or candidate to learn how to live as a Catholic Christian. This period ends when the catechumens and candidates express their desire to receive the sacraments of initiation and the community acknowledges their readiness.

Purification and Enlightenment

The third stage is the period of purification and enlightenment is what they celebrated yesterday, the First Sunday of Lent. During this time the elect (formerly the catechumens) and the candidates enter into a period of intense preparation and prayer which includes the three public celebrations of the scrutinies and is marked by the presentations of the Creed (8am on Saturday, March 13) and the Lord's Prayer 8am on Saturday, March 27). This period ends with the celebration of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. (Note: only the elect are baptized. All the groups are confirmed and welcomed to the Table of the Eucharist.)


The fourth stage is the period of post baptismal catechesis or mystagogy. At this time, the newly initiated explore their experience of being fully initiated through participation with all the faithful at Sunday Eucharist and through appropriate catechesis. The period formally lasts through the Easter season and may be marked by a parish celebration on or near Pentecost. On a more informal level, mystagogy is a lifelong process, one that all Christians are engaged in, as we all work to deepen our sense of what it means to live the Christian life.
Last year's RCIA group at the Rite of Election

Interested? Want to learn more?

Then just contact us! Peg Wagaman (our parish DRE) or I will be happy to discuss with you the specifics of the initiation process here at Saint Andrew the Apostle Parish. Know that the prayers of a 65 million Catholics in the United States and the 1.2 Billion Catholics around the world are with you as you complete your journey. God be with you!

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