The Rite of Christian Initiation was celebrated in the Diocese of Raleigh, Sunday, February 21, with liturgical services held in the eight deaneries. This year, more than 350 Elect (formerly Catechumens) will receive the Sacraments of Initiation during the Easter Vigil in their parishes. The Sacraments are Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. In addition, Candidates, baptized in other Christian traditions, will receive full Communion with the Church through the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation.
The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge presided at two of the ceremonies; the Raleigh Deanery Rite held at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Apex and the Fayetteville Deanery Rite held at St. Patrick Church in Fayetteville. The six other services, presided over by the respective Deans, were held at Holy Family Church in Elizabeth City, St .Mary Church in Wilmington, St. Paul Church in New Bern, St. Mary Church in Goldsboro, Blessed Sacrament Church in Burlington and St. Peter Church in Greenville.
The RCIA celebration includes The Rite of Election and The Call to Continuing Conversion. The Rite of Election is a celebration of our being CHOSEN by God. In the ceremony, the Bishop or his designate – the Dean of each Deanery - stands before the local Church and acknowledges through the public prayer of the Church that God’s call has been addressed to these Catechumens and Candidates for Full Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. Just as the Elect and Candidates must respond to this call, so also must the local Church, through Her Bishop, Priests, Deacons, Religious, Catechists, Godparents, and Sponsors give testimony and affirmation of Our Lord’s call in Christ.
Following the Rite of Acceptance, those who had been called “Catechumens” are declared “Elect” by the Bishop or the Dean of the Deanery. In being so declared, the Elect enter into a stage in their journey of conversion: the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. Similarly, those who are Candidates for Full Communion in the Roman Catholic Church also enter into the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. In their preparation to receive the holy Eucharist and Confirmation, the Candidates remind us to be ever mindful of how we are to hunger for Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and to utilize the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit we have received through the grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Calling it a “blessed and joyful day in the life of our holy Catholic Church and our Diocese,” Bishop Burbidge told the Catechumens and Candidates, “You are a source of inspiration. You remind all of us baptized and confirmed in Christ of the need for ongoing conversion.”
Bishop Burbidge assured them that they are not walking alone; that they are supported in prayer by family, godparents, sponsors and the Diocesan Church. Promising his prayerful support in their journey to Easter, Bishop Burbidge said we must realize the source of our strength. “In the Gospel today,” the Bishop said, “the Lord Jesus not only sends His disciples into the world, He equips them for the task. He assures them of His abiding love. That is the same promise given to each one of us; the promise that allows us to move from darkness into the wonderful Light of Christ Jesus.”