Inspired by Jesus, many step forward

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An assistant RCIA coordinator at St Peter Chanel parish in Berala holds her parish’s Book of Elect, which contains the names of catechumens in her parish who will be baptised at Easter. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Many people across city seek to join the Church at Easter

More than 600 people packed St Mary’s Cathedral last weekend to witness a major step in the faith journey of people from all over the Sydney Archdiocese wishing to become members of the Catholic Church.

Held annually on the First Sunday of Lent, the Rite of Election is for those preparing to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation during the Easter Vigil services in their local parish.

In a moving and prayerful ceremony, those preparing to be received into the Church were presented to Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP by their godparents, sponsors, friends, family and parish communities.

Numbers of Chinese Catholics on the rise

Around 120 catechumens (those who have never been baptised) and 20 candidates (those who are baptised but not fully initiated) represented 30 parishes from across the Archdiocese. One of the fastest growing groups was the Western Sydney Catholic Chinese community, whose numbers have been flourishing due to the high numbers of people immigrating from mainland China where faith is difficult to practice.

Candidates and catechumens wait to be presented to Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP alongside their RCIA sponsors. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“Faith formation in mainland China has always been difficult so when Chinese people arrive here and are able to celebrate their faith freely and openly they really do embrace it,” RCIA leader Rachel Lo said.

“Their faith is very important to them and they get so much joy being able to publically proclaim it and then share it with their family and friends. We thought we may have experienced a decrease in numbers last year during COVID, but the opposite is true, we have seen a sharp increase in our community and we are sure those numbers will continue to rise.”

“It is always a great cause for rejoicing and celebration”  – Simon Yeak

Archdiocese Sacramental Life and RCIA coordinator Simon Yeak agreed that despite the pandemic, the numbers of those wanting to be received into the Catholic Church was very encouraging.

“We have endeavoured to maintain an active RCIA community throughout 2020, despite the challenges of COVID and couldn’t be happier with the response,” he said. “Just like a man goes to the house of the father to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage, so to a catechumen goes to the house of the Archbishop in the cathedral at the Rite of Election to ask to be in a marriage with the Church.

The universality of the Church was evident at the Rite of Election at St Mary’s Cathedral in February. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“The celebration of the Rite marks the beginning of the period of more intense preparation for the sacraments of initiation, during which the elect will be encouraged to follow Christ with greater generosity.

“It is always a great cause for rejoicing and celebration when new members are added to a family. It is even more so when that family happens to be a Catholic Church.”

In his homily, Archbishop Fisher said what a great celebration it was to be welcoming the catechumens and candidates to the Catholic Church. “What a day of joy for the Archdiocese, for those who’ve prepared you, and especially for our catechumens and candidates, as they take this important step on the road to Baptism or full communion,” the archbishop said.

“We give thanks for all who’ve been part of your journey in faith. My hope, my soon-to-be brothers and sisters, is that you will continue to deepen your relationship with Christ and His Church, and keep growing in your knowledge and practice of the faith.

“Always remember how solicitous Christ is for you, how close He wants to be to you: like the hen with her chicks, Jesus will conceal you with His wings and shield you by His faithfulness. Welcome to His family. Welcome to the Catholic Church!”

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