By Tim Lilley
The Message editor
There were decidedly different looks to the 2021 Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion for Diocese of Evansville catechumens and candidates, held Feb. 21 at St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville.
Beginning at 2 p.m. CST, parishes from across the diocese presented their catechumens – those who will be baptized, confirmed and receive the Eucharist during the Easter Vigil – to Bishop Joseph M. Siegel. Beginning at 4 p.m., Bishop Siegel received candidates – those who will be confirmed and receive the Eucharist in the upcoming weeks.
While they have been celebrated together in a combined rite for many years, the two are actually very distinct liturgies.
Social-distancing guidelines related to COVID-19 significantly limited the cathedral’s seating capacity, necessitating separate services this year. After the conclusion of the Rite of Election, volunteers cleaned and sanitized the cathedral sanctuary before it was reopened to admit those participating in the Call to Continuing Conversion.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion were live-streamed to the St. Benedict Cathedral Facebook page and the Diocese of Evansville YouTube channel.
Unlike previous years, neither the catechumens nor the candidates gathered with their sponsors at the altar during the presentations by their parishes.
During the Rite of Election, parish representatives (who were seated behind the altar and socially distanced) announced the names of the catechumens while other representatives – one at a time – presented parishes’ Books of the Elect to Bishop Siegel. Catechumens and their sponsors stood in the pews, socially distanced from others – all wearing face coverings.
During the Call to Continuing Conversion, parish representatives announced the names of candidates, who stood with their sponsors in the pews and followed social-distancing guidelines. All in attendance wore face coverings.
During the Rite of Election, Bishop Siegel told catechumens that their Baptism is a gift of life from God – a gift that must be accepted. He said acceptance of God’s gift is a task that must be lived.
He referred to the Rite’s Gospel reading, Luke 4: 1-13, which recounts Jesus’ temptations by the devil during Christ’s 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert. Bishop Siegel called the baptismal profession of faith “a yes to God.” He told the catechumens that before that yes, they must say no to Satan, his works and empty promises.
As part of the Act of Election, the bishop said, “God is always faithful to those he calls: now it is your duty, as it is ours, both to be faithful to him in return and strive courageously to reach the fullness of truth, which your election opens up before you.”
During the Call to Continuing Conversion, Bishop Siegel also talked about the Gospel reading (the same reading from Luke was used in both services), and he noted that many across the world pray “lead us not into temptation” during the Lord’s Prayer with giving those words much thought.
He explained that temptation occurs because the devil knows our weaknesses, adding that giving in to temptation only brings regret and guilt. He called temptation hollow, empty and rotten – and not of God.
Bishop Siegel told the candidates that all of us are to be Jesus’ presence in the world, always seeking to serve instead of being served. He assured them that God is with them as they walk the path of conversion and repentance – on their collective journey toward full communion with the Catholic Church.
As part of the Call to Continuing Conversion, Bishop Siegel said, “My dear candidates, the Church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s Eucharistic table. Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”