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530 continue walk to full membership in Rite of Election

Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss greets Jim Berzina, who is joining St. John Vianney Parish in Omaha this Easter. As part of the Rite of Election ceremony held Feb. 13 at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, each member of the elect came forward to meet the archbishop.
Photo by Brian Fuchser

By Brian Fuchser
The Catholic Voice

Faith is a gift of God, especially faith in the Eucharist.

That was the central message Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss had in his homily for the 139 catechumens and 391 candidates who attended two Feb. 13 Rite of Election celebrations at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.

"The faith to believe Jesus keeps his promises (from the Last Supper) comes from the Father," Archbishop Curtiss told those gathered for the afternoon celebration. "We can believe only by faith."

In this "Year of the Eucharist" declared by Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Curtiss welcomed those seeking to join the Catholic Church at Easter by stressing the centrality of the Eucharist to the Catholic faith.

Through the Eucharist, Catholics gradually become more "one with Jesus" despite "all the distractions around us," the archbishop said.

"We gradually become what we eat," he said.

The Rite of Election takes place every year on the first Sunday of Lent for those preparing to come into the Catholic Church through the Easter sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.

During the ceremony, the catechumens who are entering the Catholic Church through baptism get the chance to meet Archbishop Curtiss, as do the candidates – those joining the Catholic Church from other Christian denominations.

The catechumens also inscribe their names as members of the elect, publicly expressing their desire to join the Catholic Church.

Harold Sittler, a parishioner at St. Columbkille in Papillion and a member of the parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults team, described the Rite of Election as a "culmination."

"It's the beginning of their final journey," Sittler said. "When they get to this point, I think they finally feel they're becoming part of the church."

A total of 530 people from 54 archdiocesan parishes will enter the Catholic Church this Easter, a number Archbishop Curtiss called a "powerful sign of the vitality of our church."

One of those becoming Catholic is 10-year-old Michael Aufenkamp Jr., who will be joining Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk. He said he was "very excited" to take part in the Rite of Election and meet Archbishop Curtiss.

"It'll make me feel a little bit more a part of things," he said.

Aufenkamp said at first he was joining the church because of his mom, Kay, who also will become a member of the church at Easter. But now it's because he's "closer to God," he said.

"I'm excited to know everything about God and make new friends," he said.

Thirty-eight-year-old Steve Goldfuss said his decision to join the Catholic Church as a member of St. Patrick Parish in O'Neill wasn't something that happened suddenly.

His wife and children are Catholic and he was married in a Catholic Church, so he said he has "known for a long time" that he would eventually become Catholic.

"I guess I just stopped and said that it was time to do it," Goldfuss said.

The Rite of Election was an important step for Goldfuss, but one that was hard to describe.

"It's kind of hard to explain," he said. "It makes it mean more, joining the church, to come and see Archbishop Curtiss, to see more of the roots (of the church)."

Whatever the reasons for joining the Catholic Church, Archbishop Curtiss told the elect "it is the Eucharist that defines us as a people. You will never hunger for the Lord again."

The Catholic Voice

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