The 225 newcomers to the faith in the diocese this year are the first group to take part in the ceremony at the new cathedral
By Dan McWilliams
The class of new Catholics coming into the Church in East Tennessee this Easter was the first to be formally sent forth at the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus at the annual Sending of the Neophytes ceremony.
Many of the diocese’s 162 candidates and 63 catechumens who became Catholics this spring attended the Mass, held on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8.
The occasion gave celebrant Bishop Richard F. Stika a chance to remind the assembly of his episcopal motto, taken from the words of St. Faustina: Jesus, I trust in you.
The new Catholics entered the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, but their formation continues beyond the Easter vigil, the bishop said.
“Now that you’re in the process of completing the RCIA, you’re not finished yet,” Bishop Stika said. “You’re not finished until you stand before Jesus in heaven.”
The bishop told the newcomers to “not give up on your learning, the process of discovery. Continue to pray and discern and to listen to what the Lord might be saying to you at any given moment, the challenges that He is going to make to you to build His kingdom, to teach the faith, to share the faith with generations to come.
“Keep that conversation with Jesus alive. Don’t ever think you’ve graduated from learning about the faith.”
As bishop, “I want you to know how privileged I feel and honored to be able to welcome you at the rite of election but also today as we celebrate this Mass of welcoming you into the Church as another phase of your life,” Bishop Stika said. “But if there’s anything I would like to challenge you with at this moment today, for all of us who are Doubting Thomases at times, it’s to make that prayer your prayer: Jesus, I trust in you.”
Each new Catholic came forward and received a rosary at the end of Mass from the bishop, who told the newcomers of all the saints represented in the cathedral statuary and artwork.
“I just want to welcome you in the name of the cardinal [Justin Rigali] and myself, all your catechists, everybody who was involved in your religious formation. I just want to welcome you here to the cathedral,” Bishop Stika said.
Later he reminded the neophytes: “If you got a rosary today, remember: use it. Don’t let it get dusty, and if you break it, I’ll give you another one, so don’t worry about it. And if you don’t use it, it vaporizes, and that little magnetic thing inside will let me know.”