Archbishop Richard Smith welcomes Jillian Thompson, 8 (foreground), at the Rite of Election Feb. 22 while her sister Claudia, 12, and Sydney Kozdrowski, the girls' aunt and sponsor, look on. The three are members of Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Richard Smith welcomes Jillian Thompson, 8 (foreground), at the Rite of Election Feb. 22 while her sister Claudia, 12, and Sydney Kozdrowski, the girls' aunt and sponsor, look on. The three are members of Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove.

March 9, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Jason Alderman was beaming as he got out of church Feb. 22. The 26-year-old Red Deer man had just taken part in the annual Rite of Christian Election and felt excited about becoming a Catholic.

Alderman said shaking Archbishop Richard Smith's hand during the ceremony made him feel welcome to his new faith.

Alderman, an auto mechanic and electrician, grew up a Baptist and professed that faith until he met his girlfriend Khristine a year ago.

"She is Catholic and she brought me into the faith and I decided to join the RCIA at Sacred Heart Parish," he explained. "It was my own decision."

Likewise, Heather McPhillamey decided to join the RCIA at Holy Family Parish in St. Albert after she met her Catholic fiancé Neil Skulski nearly three years ago.

Theirs are just two stories among the 190 adult and child catechumens from across the archdiocese who affirmed their desire to become members of the Catholic Church in separate ceremonies at St. Joseph's Basilica Feb. 21-22.

Alderman says he likes the rich history of the Catholic Church as well as its rites and ceremonies. "I feel closer here; I feel that the homilies are more personal and everything is more structured."

At first, Alderman was intimidated to meet the archbishop but "afterwards he was a really nice guy and I felt really comfortable being around him."

Catechumens like Alderman will formally enter the Church at the Easter Vigil, where they will receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

In his homily, Smith asked the catechumens to prepare for that solemn occasion by examining their lives and seeing where their weaknesses and strengths as people of God are.

Like Jesus, he said, Catholics are people who say 'yes' to God and 'no' to all that's contrary to him.

"We need Jesus to stay faithful," he said. "Without Jesus, we will get it backwards and we will continue to say 'no' to God and 'yes' to the evil one who wants our destruction."

The archbishop met each of the 192 catechumens who attended the two ceremonies, shaking their hand and chatting briefly with them. This year 77 of the catechumens were children.

Meanwhile, McPhillamey said she had a strong Christian faith but after she and Skulski got engaged she felt she needed the reverence of the Catholic faith. She enrolled in the RCIA process last fall with him as her sponsor.

"Neil made very clear to me that I did not have to become a Catholic but I felt that this is where God was calling me to be," she declared.

Skulski said he has enjoyed being McPhillamey's sponsor because that has enriched his faith too. The couple will tie the knot Aug. 27 in Penticton, McPhillamey's hometown.

Eight-year-old Brandon Melloy was clear about why he wants to be baptized in the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. "Because I want to get rid of my eternal sin," he replied matter-of-factly following the Rite of Election.

It helps that he attends St. Joseph's Catholic School in Spruce Grove and that his mom, Nadine Melloy, wants him to get baptized.

"Brandon asked to be baptized too," Melloy said. "We go to Mass all the time and his brothers were baptized and he wanted to be baptized too and receive the other sacraments. It's coming close to the time they get First Communion and he wanted to be able to do that."