If Christianity is supposed to be of less and less interest to modern people and less and less relevant to modern life, someone had better tell the nearly 200 people who publicly declared their intentions to become Catholics this Easter in St Mary’s Cathedral.
A total of 53 candidates and approximately 140 catechumens stepped forward before Bishop Daniel Meagher in the cathedral on 26 February to formally announce their decisions to go against the tide of much of modern life.
Each, after all, has encountered something in their lives so striking and unique that it helped them decide to enter the Catholic Church.
Candidates are those who have been baptised Christians already; catechumens are those from non-Christian backgrounds, whether this be another faith or having lived as an agnostic or an atheist.
When both enter the church at Easter, candidates will not require baptism, but both groups will receive the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist for the first time.
Each and every person presented to Bishop Meagher during Sunday’s ceremonies has a unique story and set of experiences that nevertheless led to the same outcome.
The numbers of those choosing to become Catholics indicate that despite sea changes in society and culture in recent decades and a rising tide of hostility in recent years from media and politics towards Christianity—especially the Catholic faith—the timeless message of the church still touches peoples’ lives everywhere.
As each was presented to Bishop Meagher, they were accompanied by another person affirming and witnessing formally to their intention.
In the case of candidates each was accompanied by a sponsor while catechumens were accompanied by a godparent.
Although very similar to each other, two ceremonies expressed the difference between the two groups.
Candidates participated in the rite of the call to continuing conversion, reflecting their background as already-baptised Christians entering the Catholic faith.
Catechumens participated in the Rite of Election. From the beginnings of the Church, those choosing to become Christians have been described as “the elect.”
Sacramental Life and RCIA coordinator for the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, Simon Yeak, said that for both groups last Sunday’s ceremonies crowned an apprenticeship in the Catholic faith.
Mr Yeak said Sunday’s celebration also marked the inauguration of the period of purification and enlightenment, seeing both groups enter into the same spiritual practices that Catholics undertake in Lent.
“Much like the sacramental economy points to our true calling to be in perfect communion with Christ the bridegroom at the wedding banquet of heaven, RCIA is an analogy of steps in a relationship leading to a lifelong marriage commitment as a Christian in his church,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
“When a man desires to marry the woman he courts, he goes to her father’s house to declare his readiness before him and asks permission for her hand in marriage.
“At the rite of election, our candidate and catechumens go before the head of the church, the bishop, enter his house to declare their readiness and ask permission to marry the church, to receive Our Lord come Easter.
“What began as enquiring about a love for something deeper has now become the love one desires to commit their life to, as an intentional disciple of Christ.”
After Easter, Mr Yeak will run a certification course for those interested in being missionary and evangelising through the RCIA in parishes across Sydney.
It will also aim to create a network of RCIA evangelists throughout the archdiocese, expanding the possibilities for those who may one day consider entering the Catholic Church.
Expressions of interest can be sent to [email protected].