On Saturday, February 25, 2012 Amigo Hall andSt George’sCathedral were alive with activity.  On that day people who are journeying through the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) gathered for a unique liturgy: the Rite of Election.

Presided by Archbishop Peter Smith, assisted by the Auxiliary Bishops, +John Hine, Kent Area and +Paul Hendricks, South West Area and Mgr Matthew Dickens, VG, the Archbishop welcomed and acknowledged those in attendance, recognising their commitment and desire to be in full communion with the Catholic Church.

The Rite of Election is not aMass.It is an opportunity for Archbishop Peter, on behalf of the whole church, to summon and therefore elect, those who are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, which they will receive at Easter.  It is also a time when the Archbishop recognises the desire of those already baptised, to come into full communion within the Catholic Church.  Over the years we have seen the numbers at the Rite of Election fluctuate and grow.

These catechumens and candidates come to the Rite of Election through the parish process of RCIA, sometimes also known as Journey of Faith.  In these parishes people are welcomed to the RCIA where they will encounter communities of faith, acknowledge God’s action in their lives, respond to the rich values in the Gospels and prepare themselves to come to the sacraments at Easter.

The Book of the Elect is symbolically located in the Baptistery and those preparing for baptism, the catechumens, are invited to sign it.

For many of us Catholics who joined the Church carried in our mothers’ arms, how people become Catholics as adults can be a bit of a mystery.

Over 500 Candidates and Catechumens attended and we spoke to a few and asked them about their journey of faith.

Most of those spoken to had family members in the Church and had been attending Mass for quite some time. One of these was Lesley from St Cecilia’s,North Cheam. She has been coming to Mass for about 8 years as she is married to a Catholic who, because of shift work, relies on her to bring their daughter to church, but she said she ‘felt like a bit of an outsider’.  As her daughter was now preparing for her First Holy Communion, this caused her to discuss with some of her Catholic friends areas which she was interested in and this eventually led her to join the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) in her parish. Lesley said her daughter feels really proud of her, and tells all her friends who think it’s really quite funny.

Tracey, who like Lesley, has a Catholic husband, spoke of how lovely it is to come to Mass as a family and how her joining the RCIA group has helped them discuss faith as a family.

Dwayne, whose wife is a Catholic, said how helpful and friendly the RCIA group had been and how it had helped him answer questions which he and some friends had about the Catholic faith. His wife added that she was also learning new things through their discussions.

Michael came with a group from Christ the King inWimbledon, including his fiancée who is a Catholic. He has been a Christian all his life but not a regular church-goer, maybe twice a year, but for the last three years had been attending the Catholic Church regularly. He always felt he would join the Church at some time, but shared that he was a bit concerned that a religious group like the RCIA would be ‘formal and maybe a bit stuffy’, but had found the discussions interesting and stimulating. Michael felt that his faith had deepened and that he could always pray for guidance. Michael was looking forward to the marriage preparation course and marrying in the Church as he and his fiancée both wanted to acknowledge God’s presence in their relationship.

Everyone we spoke to after the Rite of Election felt really uplifted and encouraged in the knowledge of being part of the wider diocesan group. Gwen spoke for many when she said, ‘it felt like coming home’.

The RCIA Co-ordinator of St Mary’s, Clapham sent comments from her group which included the following:

  • They appreciated the amazing organisation and how smoothly it all went;
  • It was really reassuring to see so may others on the same journey;
  • Extraordinary;
  • I’ve never seen such a huge church gathering;
  • Wonderful music;
  • Being called by name made me feel part of it, not a passive observer;
  • It made me realise how near I am to the next stage of the journey.

We would like to thank all those who shared their story with us, only some of which are written about here. We wish them every blessing.

The Centre for Catholic Formation (formerly the Christian Education Centre) coordinates this Diocesan event in conjunction with the Chancery, Cathedral staff, the Diocesan Music Committee, the Deaf Chaplaincy and many volunteers.

Marie Mann,

Adult Formation Adviser, Centre for Catholic Formation, Tooting Bec.

Molly Styant,

Adult Formation Adviser, Centre for Catholic Formation, Tooting Bec