Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 1, 1999
Welcome to the Church
299 candidates say they're ready to become Catholic at Easter
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Catherine and Scott Godlien credit their children with drawing them into the Catholic Church.
"We wanted to be able to journey in faith as a family," Scott says, and that led them to join the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park.
On Feb. 20, the family took a step together on their faith journey, as daughters Shaynah, 3, and Tiannah, five weeks, joined their parents in the Rite of Election at St. Joseph's Basilica.
They were among 299 RCIA candidates and catechumens from 36 parishes across the archdiocese who affirmed their desire to become part of the Catholic Church. Two celebrations were held to accommodate the large group.
The Rite of Election is "an acknowledgement of each one being called by name by God," says Celeste Whelan, chair of the archdiocesan RCIA committee. It recognizes the candidates' and catechumens' serious commitment to prepare for receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist at Easter.
It's also an opportunity to welcome them into the archdiocese and into the Church, Whelan says. "For many of them, this is the first time they've been in the basilica and met the archbishop."
Before greeting each candidate individually, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil welcomed them as a group and challenged them to remember that "saying 'yes' to God and to Jesus Christ is just the beginning.
"When you say 'yes' to God, there is a presumption that you're going to change your way of life - the way you see things and the way you behave."
That conversion is a life-long process of "trying to live out the consequences of saying yes," MacNeil added.
For Tammy Zimmer of Daysland, Sunday's celebration was "an official welcoming and sense of belonging," to a community she has been part of for some time.
Although she is from a Lutheran background, Zimmer began attending Our Lady of the Prairies Parish with her husband and three children because it was the only church in the vicinity of their home.
She is involved in music ministry and the parish's youth group, but wanted to "formalize" her commitment.
"When you come from a different faith background, sometimes it's difficult for people to know where you're at in your faith life," she says. What she has learned about the Catholic faith through RCIA has created some common ground with her Church community.
But it's not only those from other faiths who benefit from learning about the Catholic Church, says Catherine Godlien.
Although she was baptized Catholic, Godlien says formal religion never played a large part in her life. The RCIA has not only enabled her to learn more about her faith, she says, but has also drawn her parents back into the Church.
Jaelene Langille, from Good Shepherd Parish in Edmonton, was baptized in the Catholic Church when she was 10. Like Godlien, she says she never thought a great deal about her faith, but now that her children are baptized, "I feel I should be a role model for them."
By contrast, Lynne Moran of Red Deer always felt drawn to the Catholic Church, although she was never baptized.
"This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but I've never taken that first step before."
In his homily, MacNeil acknowledged that the call to God is "something very personal for each of us. It may have taken a few months, or many, many years."
Each of us, he added, need to recognize our sins and weaknesses, but also to see that "there is hope - we can be reconciled to each other, we can change our lives, and we are not alone."