Hundreds of people made a public commitment to become Catholic at Rite of Election and Continuing Conversion ceremonies held statewide on the first weekend after Lent.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the rite at Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia on Feb. 28, St. Mary Church in Greenville on Feb. 29, Holy Spirit Church on Johns Island on March 1, and St. Andrew Church in Myrtle Beach on March 2
During the ceremony, catechumens sign their name in the Book of the Elect while their sponsors stand with them, and candidates receive a special blessing. They will all enter the Church during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. Catechumens will receive the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation; and candidates will be confirmed and receive the Eucharist.
This year 483 people participated in the event, according to statistics compiled by the Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation.
People followed a wide variety of spiritual journeys to this juncture. Some began studies of the faith long ago but never received the sacraments. Others, like Patrick Best of Conway, are converts drawn to Catholicism.
Best grew up in a Protestant family and had never attended a Catholic Mass until he started dating his wife, Jennifer. The couple went to Mass at St. James and Best quickly discovered an interest in the church’s liturgy and traditions. The sacraments, he said, were a little harder to understand.
“I remember getting frustrated because I couldn’t receive the Eucharist, and it turned out that God used that to make me curious,” Best said. “I had questions about why I couldn’t, and that led me to research to find answers, and those answers made me even more attracted to the faith. I discovered nothing in the Church was watered down, that Church teaching is unchanging, and I found conviction in the homilies I listened to at Mass.”
He started RCIA in 2019 with his wife as his sponsor, and said the experience has added depth to their marriage.
“We became one flesh when we got married, and now we can also become one in mind and spirit when I enter the Church,” he said.
Three students from Cardinal Newman School took part in the Rite of Election at Our Lady of the Hills. Tucker Woodham, 18, and Molly Cerra, 16, are candidates, while Skyler Allen, 18, is a catechumen.
They have been taking weekly RCIA classes this year with Father Andrew Fryml, the school’s chaplain. This is the first time RCIA has been offered at the school. Father Fryml said he proposed the idea to Bishop Guglielmone when he started meeting students who were interested in becoming Catholic.
“It occurred to me it would be hard to ask a non-Catholic teenager in high school to go to an adult RCIA group by themselves, and to begin study of the faith with people twice their age,” Father Fryml said. “By learning on campus, they can build a sense of community with the other students who are coming into the Church.”
All three students said the RCIA program at school has been a good experience because of the support they get from each other and from their peers. Each of them has two sponsors: an adult from the Cardinal Newman faculty and a student.
“It’s really important to be able to go through this process with someone your own age,” Tucker said.
The students will enter the Church during the vigil at their parishes: Tucker at St. Joseph, Molly at St. John Neumann, and Skyler at the Basilica of St. Peter.
Father Fryml has encouraged them to become active in their parishes because that is where they will live out their faith once they leave high school.
“These young people give life to a parish community,” Father Fryml said. “It means a lot for people to see a high school student saying ‘I chose the Catholic faith and made the commitment’. At the Easter Vigil, others in these parishes will see the great courage and the great faith that these students have.”