Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, addressed those gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion today that they came together to bear witness to “the desire of so many here to complete their journey that brings them into the Church, and by doing so to publically embrace the cross as the pathway not only to eternal life but to a richer and fuller experience of life now.”
This Easter, 1,306 adults, teens and children will be baptized or confirmed as Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington, which is the largest number of candidates and catechumens ever. The participants come from approximately 95 parishes, six university campuses and one military base chapel across the archdiocese. In the last 10 years, 12,660 have joined the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington.
At the beginning of Lent, which is the period of penance and reflection observed by Catholics leading up to the celebration of Easter, those who are being received into the Catholic Church are presented to the local bishop in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. This liturgy marks the participants’ formal public expression of their desire to become Catholic and kicks off a final period of intense spiritual preparation.
In the Archdiocese of Washington, the rite is held annually at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception over two Sundays to accommodate the large number of people who participate and bring their family members to share in this significant day in their spiritual life. The second ceremony will be held on Sunday, March 16, 2014.
During his homily, Cardinal Wuerl told the participants that “You make this journey because you recognize some very basic elements of our faith. Jesus was sent by God to save us, the Church continues his saving work, and we experience it in the sacraments, especially the sacraments of initiation.”
The cardinal continued, “As we rejoice with you and joyfully welcome you to this final step in your faith journey, we remind ourselves that Lent is not just for those who wish to be received into our family of faith. It is a summons to us all to that total, ongoing conversion that is called for by Baptism.”