T.J. Cofield of Greenville attended various churches while growing up, but never felt really comfortable about faith until he started attending Catholic campus ministry at Furman University.
“I found my faith home was in the Catholic Church,” he said. “I connected with it. I knew it was where I belonged.”
Cofield, who attends St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, joined hundreds of men and women who took part in Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion during the first weekend of Lent.
The annual ceremony is for catechumens and candidates who will enter the Church at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the rite on four separate days: Feb. 12 for the Greenville deanery at Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg; Feb. 13 for the Rock Hill, Columbia and Aiken deaneries at Corpus Christi Church in Lexington; Feb. 14 for the Charleston and Beaufort deaneries at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston; and Feb. 15 for the Myrtle Beach deanery at St. Mary Our Lady of Ransom Church in Georgetown.
Catechumens receive the sacraments of baptism, holy Communion and confirmation at the vigil. Candidates, who have already been baptized, come into full communion with the Church by receiving the Eucharist and being confirmed.
During the ceremony, catechumens accompanied by their sponsors sign the Book of the Elect, announcing their commitment to become part of the Church. Candidates stand with their sponsor for prayer. And all receive a blessing from the bishop.
About 475 men and women participated in the event, according to Michael Martocchio, director of the diocesan Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation.
“This is a moving experience both for those entering the Church and those who are already members,” Martocchio said. “It shows that one is not alone in joining the Body of Christ, and that this new way of life is not a life lived in isolation. The witness of so many lives willingly being given over to God reminds those who are already Catholic of the beautiful treasure we have in the Church.”
In homilies at the Greenville and Lexington ceremonies, Bishop Guglielmone referred to the Gospel of Luke, describing Jesus’ 40 days in the desert and Satan’s efforts to tempt him. He reminded the crowds that Jesus was not swayed from his path by temptation, and urged them to stay focused on their goal of becoming part of the Church.
“You are embarking on your Lenten journey with the anticipation of a new life,” he said. “Remember that the goal of all we do is to come into a deeper sense of intimacy with Christ. We are called to profess Jesus Christ and we can’t go through life without realizing that He is the center of everything.”
Men and women who took part in the Rite of Election described different faith journeys.
“The Church was always something I felt drawn to, and seeing this ceremony here tonight really helped me realize how large the Body of Christ really is,” said Marcia Hopkins, a candidate from Prince of Peace Church in Taylors.
Elizabeth Hadzick, a candidate from Sumter, was raised Southern Baptist but has been attending Mass for several years with husband Jeremy Hadzick and daughters Samantha and Abigail. Mrs. Hadzick decided to become Catholic because they are raising their children in the faith.
“I really feel like this is the strongest I have been in my faith in years,” she said. The Hadzicks, who attend Our Lady of the Skies at Shaw Air Force Base, said the months of preparation also added a new dimension of their faith to their marriage.
The event at Corpus Christi was truly a family affair for the Swains.
Dr. Rick Swain, who lives in Kentucky, spent the past several weeks in Lexington with his grandson Dylan Swain, 17, who is finishing up his studies as a catechumen. Dr. Swain’s son, Chris, is sponsoring his wife Adrienne, who will also come into communion with the Church. Dr. Swain said he was overwhelmed to see both Dylan and Adrienne take part in the Rite of Election.
“We’ve prayed for this for 18 years,” he said. “We’re really blessed to all be together for this.”
Chris, who attends Corpus Christi Church in Lexington with his family, said it has been an honor to work with his wife as she prepares to become Catholic. He is receiving a double blessing as his wife and son both join the Church.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “Nothing is better than having religion bring your family closer together.”
St. Mary, Georgetown
Photos by Keith Jacobs/Miscellany
Corpus Christi Church, Lexington
Photos by Jeff Blake/Miscellany
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston
Photos by Doug Deas/Miscellany
Jesus, Our Risen Savior, Spartanburg
Photos by Christina Lee Knauss/Miscellany