Many play roles in RCIA process - Catholic Courier
Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark greets 3-year-old Ryan Simonds, whoaccompanied his father, James, a catechumen from St. John of RochesterParish, to sign the Book of the Elect during the Rite of Election and Callto Conversion celebration at Sacred Heart Cathedral Feb. 17. Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark greets 3-year-old Ryan Simonds, whoaccompanied his father, James, a catechumen from St. John of RochesterParish, to sign the Book of the Elect during the Rite of Election and Callto Conversion celebration at Sacred Heart Cathedral Feb. 17.

Many play roles in RCIA process

ROCHESTER — Hundreds of people are soon to be fully welcomed into the Catholic Church in the Rochester Diocese — and many more folks have aided them on their journey, as was apparent at a Rite of Election and Call to Conversion service Feb. 17.

Pews at Sacred Heart Cathedral were filled for the afternoon event by people nearing the end of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process and their families, friends, sponsors and other supporters. The service, which was celebrated by Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark, was held to officially acknowledge their intention to be fully initiated Catholics.

Cara Lunkenheimer was flanked by her husband, Brad, as well as her mother, brother and in-laws. She also credited her new parish community, Catholic Community of the Blessed Trinity in Wayne County, for its support during her time in RCIA.

“I feel that the Catholic Church has become a home and a new family,” said Lunkenheimer, who grew up in a Protestant denomination. She noted that becoming a Catholic has been important since she and her husband, who is her sponsor, were just married this past August and “we want to raise our children in the same faith.”

Sisters Alicia and Marissa Vazquez, who are 12 and 16 years old, respectively, were at Sacred Heart accompanied by their godmother, Lorena Mendoza, who is serving as their sponsor. Both girls were baptized as Catholics but only became regularly involved in their faith in more recent years. They said they’ve felt comfortable and welcomed through their weekly preparation classes at Holy Trinity Parish in Webster.

“The (learning) experience was pretty fun,” Marissa said.

Meanwhile, James Simonds radiated enthusiasm as he held his 1-month-old daughter, Madelyn Grace, while his 3-year-old son, Ryan James, and wife, Brighid, sat beside him. He said he grew up not practicing any religion but “by the grace of God became aware of God’s presence in my life.” Simonds and his wife, who is sponsoring him, noted that this is the culmination of a process that began three years ago when they got married.

“It’s been a long time coming, and it felt right to convert,” James said, while Brighid added that “it’s very exciting. I’m very, very happy.”

Simonds will be brought into the Catholic faith at St. John of Rochester Church in Fairport during the Easter Vigil Mass on March 30 — the night that similar initiations take place across the Diocese of Rochester for candidates (people who have already been baptized in recognized Christian rites but never received first Eucharist and/or confirmation) and catechumens (people who have never been baptized and have been preparing to receive the sacraments of baptism, first Communion and confirmation). According to Mary Dundas, diocesan coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis, this year there are 180 catechumens (including 64 children ages 10-15) and 174 candidates (including 28 children ages 10-15) from 55 diocesan parishes.

Candidates and catechumens could sense the magnitude of what’s to come based on the considerable pomp and circumstance of the Rite of Election and Call to Conversion events. Sacred Heart hosted afternoon and evening services on Feb. 17, and a third was held at St. Catherine of Siena in Ithaca on Feb. 24.

Being in the cathedral for the first time — and having a front-row seat to boot — proved a powerful experience for Lunkenheimer.

“It’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful,” she said of the diocese’s mother church.

The Vazquez sisters, who also had never before set foot inside Sacred Heart, were equally impressed.

“I’ve got to say, it’s a nice big place,” Marissa commented.

“So huge,” Alicia agreed.

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