Rite Welcomes the Elect
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 25, 2021
ROCKFORD—As with most all events in the diocese this past year, the 2021 Rite of Election on Feb. 20 was smaller than usual and deeply significant.
Usually, both catechumens (those to receive the sacrament of baptism as well as sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist) and already-baptized candidates pack the Cathedral of St. Peter for the event. This year only catechumens, their sponsors and select family members came, to assure social distancing and safety. The rite also was live-streamed to allow for remote participation.
For Melanie O’Neill, that meant her son David could “join” her and her sons Brendan and Elliott as they took this important step toward becoming Catholic. David attends college in Boston and participated virtually.
Like other catechumens (and candidates), they have studied the faith in Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes offered by their parish — St. Peter in Geneva. Brendan and Elliott also both attend Catholic schools. 
After many years of close encounters with the Church that included teaching in a Catholic high school, Melanie felt the time was right to join the faith of her husband, Michael, a lifelong Catholic, and her three sons agreed. St. Peter’s pastor, Father Jonathan Bakkelund, and Deacon Gregory D’Anna were “warm and welcoming” to them, Melanie says.
Now the O’Neills and the other catechumens of the diocese are members of “the elect” since they have been elected by the Church (in the person of the bishop) to become members. 
The Rite of Election is the ritual that marks their entry into the final phase of preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation. They will be baptized, confirmed and will receive first Communion in their parishes at the Easter Vigil, April 3. 
That evening, candidates will receive whichever of those sacraments of the Catholic faith they have not yet received.
Bishop David Malloy welcomed both groups of catechumens — at English and Spanish-language ceremonies — calling it “a moment of particular grace of God given ... to you and the rest of us.”
One point he shared is that, as new Catholics, they can have an impact on the people beside them in the pews.
“In one way you are receiving this gift for yourself,” Bishop Malloy said, “but don’t underestimate what it means for the rest of the Church to see you.” 
Pointing to himself (“for old guys like me”), the bishop noted that “one of the things that (can) happen is you might get a little too familiar with the faith (and) forget about just how spectacular this gift is.”
They will be an inspiration, he said, and a reminder that the Catholic faith is indeed “evergreen.”
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