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Rite of Election 2024: New Catholics, Easter wouldn’t be the same without your ‘yes’

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More than 250 people hoping to enter the church at Easter joined with their family and friends for the Rite of Election held at St Mary’s Cathedral this month. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“Once you were an alien people, strangers to God’s heart of love; but God brought you home in mercy, citizens of heaven above,” the choir sang with joy, as 266 Sydneysiders intending to enter the Catholic Church were presented at St Mary’s Cathedral.

The Rite of Election on 18 February, in which Christians baptised outside Catholic communion and catechumens wishing to receive baptism are presented to Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, was the biggest yet.

Every pew at St Mary’s was filled with future Catholics and their sponsors, godparents, family and friends, despite the tropical heat and humidity.

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“It’s often said that parishes without catechumens don’t fully experience Lent and Easter,” Archbishop Fisher said.

“Well, bishops without catechumens don’t fully experience episcopacy either—for in the ancient tradition bishops played an important part in instructing those preparing for baptism at Easter.

“Most of what we know about the catechumenate in the early centuries of the church is in fact from those instructions to catechumens by the early bishops.

“So, I thank you for giving me this opportunity to be part of your Rite of Election today!”

Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

The candidates’ sponsors and catechumens’ godparents were questioned by the archbishop, who asked whether the prospective Catholics had reflected on the tradition, joined their communities in prayer, “advanced in a life of love and service to others,” and other fundamentals of Christian life.

With a firm “yes” and a round of applause, the way was cleared for the 266 to enter the faith at Easter.

Priska Surantono, a student from the Catholic Indonesian Community, Kensington, is converting to the Catholic faith from Islam. “It has been quite an extraordinary journey to conversion, because it isn’t necessarily an easy thing,” Priska told The Catholic Weekly.

“Even before finally receiving my parents’ blessing, it was not always sunshine and rainbows. But I had to be persistent in my decision. The Mass was an exciting step towards conversion that has affirmed my faith. I’m very much now looking forward to 31 March for Easter.

“It has been uplifting to know that I have not been alone through all this and that there are other people that have been going through their similar struggles and now conversion. We can empower each other and inspire each other to stay faithful.”

Each parish’s representatives processed down the cathedral’s aisle to present the archbishop with a “Book of the Elect,” upon which is written the names of the catechumens seeking baptism.

Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

Candidates who were already baptised participated in the rite of the call to continuing conversion, signaling their intention to enter full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

The number of Catholics entering the church at Easter and participating in the Rite of Election has nearly tripled in three years.

It’s a sign of the dedication of the archdiocesan and local teams that accompany new Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

Simon Yeak, RCIA Co-ordinator at the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, has celebrated four rites of election since joining the SCE. In 2021 107 were received through the program, with 179 in 2023 and 266 this year.

“It was incredible to see not a single pew free in the entire Cathedral,” said Simon. “The response from catechumens and candidates that I personally know said that this was a once in a lifetime experience that they would not soon forget.”

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