Hundreds prepare to join the Church at Rite of Election

Donna Roberts was raised Protestant but drifted among several denominations during her life, never quite feeling she’d found the right fit. She remembers exactly when she realized she wanted to become a Catholic.
“I was invited to go to Mass and walked through those doors and there He was on the cross, and I knew I was home,” she said.
Roberts, who attends RCIA classes at St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton, joined many others who reached an important milestone in their efforts to join the Church at Rite of Election ceremonies held March 7-10.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the rite for the Piedmont deanery March 7 at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville; the Midlands deanery March 8 at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia; the Coastal and Lowcountry deaneries at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist March 9; and the Pee Dee deanery March 10 at St. James Church in Conway.
About 340 men and women statewide took part in the ceremonies, said Michael Martocchio, director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian education for the diocese.
The event, traditionally held around the first Sunday of Lent, offers candidates and catechumens a way to cement their commitment to enter the Church at Easter Vigil services on Holy Saturday.
At the vigil, catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, holy Communion and confirmation. Candidates, who have already been baptized in other Christian denominations, come into full communion with the Church by receiving the Eucharist and being confirmed.
In his homily at the Charleston ceremony, Bishop Guglielmone said people often spend much of their lives on fruitless efforts to find themselves or discover meaning in worldly things. By seeking to join the Church, he said, the men and women were on a higher journey.
“Our hearts remain restless until we meet God,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “My hope and prayer is that you are here because you want to find something more, a way to become close to God, and find that experience in the Catholic Church, through the life of the sacraments that give us a chance to encounter God over and over.”
The day’s readings, he said, offered a look at how worldly forces will constantly threaten those who seek God. He cited the stories of Adam and Eve in the garden and Jesus’ temptation by the devil during his 40 days in the desert. During the rite, catechumens lined up to sign the Book of the Elect. The candidates stood with their sponsors for a special prayer and blessing.
Leah Frank, a catechumen who attends St. Francis by the Sea Church in Hilton Head, said she was never really religious until her mother and other Catholic family members encouraged her to start going to church two years ago. She was thoughtful and quietly awestruck after the rite held at the Cathedral.
“The ceremony today was life changing,” she said. “After what feels like a very long time of study and work, it’s incredible to know we’re that much closer to God.”
Roberts, meanwhile, fought back tears of emotion and said she was so overcome she almost couldn’t sign the book.
She first became interested in the Church when she helped take care of a close friend who was Catholic during her fight with breast cancer, Roberts said. After that memorable experience of going to a church, she bought a Catholic bible, a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayer books and other materials and signed up for RCIA.
“This whole journey is a spiritual process, a wonderful thing,” she said. “I’m finally finding peace. The Church is what I’ve always wanted, but I didn’t know it until I saw Christ with his arms open, welcoming me.”