“There were roughly 240 combined—catechumens and candidates,” said Sister Mary Timothea Elliott, RSM, director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation. “It’s maybe 10 less than last year, but it’s a good number.”
Each deanery hosted a Rite of Election ceremony on the first weekend of Lent, March 8 and 9. Bishop Richard F. Stika presided at each rite. Sister Mary Timothea accompanied him to each stop.
The weekend began with the Smoky Mountain Deanery Rite of Election, hosted by Immaculate Conception Church in Knoxville on March 8. Later that day, St. Patrick in Morristown hosted the rite for the Five Rivers Deanery. On March 9, Holy Spirit Church in Soddy-Daisy hosted the rite for the Chattanooga Deanery. Also on March 9, St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge served as host for the Cumberland Mountain Deanery rite.
“The rites were beautiful, and the host parishes did a beautiful job of providing lectors in both English and Spanish and altar servers and ushers and everything—it was very nicely done,” Sister Mary Timothea said.
Catechumens have never been baptized and will receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. Candidates have been baptized and will be confirmed and receive the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.
At each deanery’s Rite of Election, Sister Mary Timothea presented the catechumens to Bishop Stika and said, “they ask that . . . they be allowed to participate in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist.”
Leaders of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) programs at deanery parishes introduced their catechumens, and the bishop asked godparents whether the catechumens had listened and responded to the Word “proclaimed by the Church” and “shared the company of their Christian sisters and brothers and joined with them in prayer.”
The catechumens then pledged “to enter fully into the life of the Church” through the three sacraments of initiation. Each RCIA leader brought forward his or her parish’s Book of the Elect for Bishop Stika to sign, after which the bishop greeted the catechumens and godparents.
Sister Mary Timothea then presented to the bishop “the candidates who seek to complete their Christian initiation.” RCIA leaders introduced their candidates, after which the bishop said “the Christian life and the demands that flow from the sacraments cannot be taken lightly. Therefore, before granting these candidates their request, it is important that the Church hear the testimony of their sponsors about their readiness.”
Sponsors affirmed that the candidates “have come to a deeper appreciation about their baptism,” “reflected sufficiently on the tradition of the Church,” and “advanced in a life of love and service.” The candidates also echoed the catechumens’ desire “to enter fully into the life of the Church.”
The bishop signed the Book of the Elect for the candidates and greeted them along with their sponsors.