Becoming Catholic: Lent starts the journey

As the number of people seeking to enter the Catholic Church grows in South Carolina, the Rite of Election has grown with it.

Over 550 catechumens and candidates participated in ceremonies held March 11-16 at four churches, said Sister Pamela Smith, diocesan director of Catechesis and Christian Initiation for Parishes and Schools. The diocese has seen 500-600 people enter the church each year over the past five years.

St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville hosted the first rite, followed by services at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, St. Peter Church in Columbia, and St. Michael Church in Garden City.

The Rite of Election is the time where people officially declare their desire for baptism at Easter by signing the Book of the Elect.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone was the celebrant at each Mass.

In his homily at St. Peter, he focused on the battle against sin and temptation. The bishop said all sin is essentially about two things, power and manipulation, and people mistakenly use sin to try to become more powerful than God.

“The season of Lent gives those who want it the chance to enter the journey of love, a time of spiritual, intensive preparation,” he said. “It’s important for all of us to remind ourselves who we are, that God is God and we are not. We need God and He comes to us over and over through the sacraments. God works through the human person. He continues to live in the world though the Holy Spirit that dwells within all of us.”

At the Easter Vigil, the catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Candidates, people who have already been baptized in another Christian tradition, are received into full communion with the Catholic Church at this time.

Sister Pam said she is especially proud of the cultural diversity of those entering the church, noting the impressive numbers of Hispanics, Filipinos, Vietnamese and African-Americans.

Amy Wise Taylor and Christina Lee Knauss contributed to this article.