Archbishop Lucas welcomes those preparing to enter full communion with the church

Assuring them of God’s love and his own prayers for them on their faith journey, Archbishop George J. Lucas greeted hundreds of catechumens and candidates at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha March 5 as they prepare for full communion with the church.

It was a powerful moment for Miranda Vogel, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Atkinson who traveled more than 200 miles with her husband, Jeff, for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion of the Baptized.

Being at the cathedral for the first time, the importance of the occasion and the overall atmosphere built into one emotional, but calming moment as the archbishop greeted her, Vogel said. Perhaps in part it was the thought of her late grandmother, Patricia Burival, looking down on her, after having insisted before she died a year ago that Vogel receive the sacrament of confirmation.

"I was nervous, but I shook the archbishop’s hand and it was calming, like a breath of fresh air," she said. "I’ve never felt anything like that before."

A total of about 400 people preparing for full communion with the church – along with hundreds more sponsors, friends and family – joined Vogel at the 2 p.m. ceremony or participated in a 7:30 p.m. gathering. They came to publicly declare their intent to enter the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), either as catechumens preparing to be baptized, confirmed and receive holy Communion during the Easter Vigil, or as candidates preparing to be confirmed and receive the Eucharist.

Sarah Patton, a member of St. Boniface Parish in Stuart, who started late with RCIA this year and will fully enter the church next year through confirmation and first Communion, said she was struck by the number of people, from all walks of life and levels of income, going through the same process.

Business people, teachers, farmers or ranchers, "it doesn’t matter how much you make, but faith in the Lord that brings us all together," Patton said.

And Jesus’ call to everyone for fullness of life in him – no matter age, ethnicity or stage in the faith – was a major theme of Archbishop Lucas’ homily, as he focused on the Gospel of John and its description of Christ as the true vine, the faithful as branches and God the Father as the vine grower.

"There’s something very important and I think very true that I can say about each of you," Archbishop Lucas said during his homily. "I know that the Lord Jesus Christ loves each of you very much."

And he wants to be part of everyone’s life, the archbishop said. He doesn’t want to wait until people feel like they have "straightened out their faith" enough to welcome him, Archbishop Lucas said.

"Jesus is kind of impatient, and if he waits for us to get our ‘act together,’ he might never have the opportunity to be with us at all, to live with us, to walk with us," the archbishop said.

"I know Jesus wants to be part of your life," the archbishop said. "Jesus wants to be as close to you as the vine is to its branches. Just as the vine and branches share the same life … they experience darkness and light, cold and heat, together. That’s the connection that Jesus desires to have with you."

And as the church prepares to commemorate Jesus’ arrest on Holy Thursday, death on the cross on Good Friday and resurrection from the dead at Easter, it is important to remember his love for all people, the sacrifice he made to forgive sins, and his desire to be close, the archbishop said.

"The glorious, powerful Son of God – crucified and now risen from the dead, is inviting you to be closer to him, to have life in him … Isn’t that amazing?"

"Jesus loves us enough to choose us to be his friend," the archbishop said. "May our Lord Jesus Christ reveal his loving choice of you, and may you experience the joy of knowing that, more and more, in these coming days."

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