CLIFTON Catechumens from across the Diocese of Paterson, joined catechumens in dioceses around the world on the First Sunday of Lent, Feb. 14, in reaching an important milestone on their journey to receiving the Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil when they were formally selected — or elected — by Bishop Serratelli at the diocesan Rite of Election in St. Philip the Apostle Church here.
Carrying the Book of Elect of parishes from around the diocese, priests and religious education directors presented the Bishop with the names of those who were enrolled.
Bishop Serratelli congratulated the catechumens, telling them: “What a happy coincidence the Rite of Election takes place this year on Valentine’s Day. On a day that celebrates the love we have for one another, we have the all-authentic love, the great love God has for each of us. We thank God for each of these Elect as they prepare to receive the sacraments.”
The catechumens have been studying tenets of Catholicism through their parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, the Church’s official process by which new members are prepared for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Receiving the three sacraments of initiation on Holy Saturday will be 63 adults from parishes around the diocese. Also present at the Rite of Election were 56 children, some of whom will be baptized while others will receive First Communion at the Easter Vigil.
Delivering the homilies at the Rite of Election Sunday afternoon were two diocesan priests who were ordained last May by Bishop Serratelli — Father Mateusz Jasniewicz, parochial vicar at both St. Cecilia and Sacred Heart parishes in Rockaway, who gave the homily in English, and Father Darwin Lastra, parochial vicar at St. Vincent Martyr in Madison, who preached in Spanish.
Following the homilies, the catechumens were presented to the Bishop and both the catechumens’ godparents and the congregation made an official affirmation of their worthiness for reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. Then, recognition of the enrolled names was presented to the Bishop in the Book of Elect. The catechumens were then asked to stand as an act of admission or election, They are now known as the elect.
During the time following the Rite of Election and until the Easter Vigil, the newly elect will begin a period of Purification and Enlightenment — the final preparation for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. On the following Sundays of Lent, three scrutinies - rites of self-searching, repentance and the presentations of the Creed and Lord’s Prayer - take place. After this period, they will receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil at their parish.
One of the newly elected at the Rite of Election was Marlayna Best of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Oak Ridge. Best, who is married to a Catholic, became a mother for the first time last year and decided it was important to raise her daughter as a Catholic.
“My baby daughter was baptized before me last year,” Best said, “and the community at St. Thomas has been very welcoming.”
Also ready to become a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church is Nicholas Hunter, who has been preparing for the sacraments at St. Gerard Majella Parish in Paterson.
”Becoming Catholic and receiving the sacraments is something I always wanted to do. Through the process, I learned the Catholic Church is very spiritual and going to Mass each Sunday makes my week. Mondays aren’t so bad when I attend Mass on Sunday. Mondays feel not so good when I don’t,” said Hunter.
Hunter said he was inspired to finally become a Catholic because he is engaged to be married to his fiancée Caterina Cefalo next August.
Rich Oliver, who grew up as an Evangelical, will also receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. He was inspired to become a Catholic by the example of his girlfriend, Marisol Diaz, who would take him to Mass on Sundays. They eventually became members of the young adult group at St. Paul’s Inside the Walls, the Diocese’s Evangelization Center in Madison.
Diaz said, “I was surprised he got into it. He would be the one to initiate joining the different programs at St. Paul’s. Oliver said, “I began to explore it with an open mind and an open heart. The Catholic Church feels very engaging to me.”
At Mary Help of Christians Academy (MHCA) in North Haledon, two students will be receiving all three Sacraments of Initiation while four other students will be completing the reception of their Sacraments of Initiation, all at St. Gerard Majella Parish in Paterson.
Jada Joseph, a junior at MHCA, is one of the students who will receive Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. “I wanted to do this for a long time,” she said. “I attended Catholic school my whole life so I always felt like I belonged to the Church. My mom has been supportive but my dad who wasn’t at first, is starting to accept my decision. I am really looking forward to the day.”