Archbishop George J. Lucas greets people preparing to enter the Catholic Church at Easter during an afternoon ceremony March 6 at St. Cecilia Cathedral. MIKE MAY/STAFF

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Catechumens and candidates take the next step toward full communion with the Catholic Church

The music, the environment, the sense of sacredness – left teenage brothers Sam and Chase Cascio inspired and eager to move forward in their journey toward the Catholic faith and their baptism, first Communion and confirmation at Easter.

Sam (16) and Chase (13) were among nearly 300 people presented to Archbishop George J. Lucas March 6 at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha during the annual Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion of the Baptized.

The brothers, attending from St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue, both said, “I can’t wait to go further,” following the afternoon ceremony.

Accompanied by sponsors, family and friends, 176 candidates and 119 catechumens declared their intent to join the Catholic Church during two ceremonies that day that included readings from sacred Scripture, general intercessions, affirmations of the participants’ worthiness by sponsors and the community, and a homily by the archbishop.

Citing the Gospel reading from St. John about the vine and the branches, the archbishop spoke in his homily of Jesus’ desire for each person to be close to him. 

“I’m sure as you’re preparing to celebrate the sacraments at Easter time … that there are things you’re looking forward to, things that you’re hoping for yourself,” he said.

“I think it’s important as we gather today, bringing all of our hopes and desires for our life in Christ, that we also pay attention to what Jesus is hoping for, for you.

“We know that Jesus knows and understands us better than we know ourselves. … He knows we’re sinners, he knows we’re not perfect, no matter how hard we try, but he loves us and laid down his life for us.”

“Jesus has expressed his desires for you and me in this passage from St. John’s Gospel,” the archbishop said. “It’s one that’s familiar to us. Jesus expresses, first, that we be close to him always.”

“He uses this image that we all understand. ‘I am the vine,’ he says, ‘and you are the branches.’ We’re as close to him as the branches are to the vine. … Jesus wants to identify himself with you, and he wants us to identify ourselves with him … and to be one with him in his living body, the Church.”

The archbishop said that Jesus not only desires closeness, but that we also bear fruit, so that others can come to know Jesus’ love for them by the way that we love.

Following the homily, catechumens, those to be baptized, confirmed and receive holy Communion, and candidates, people who are already baptized and seeking to receive the sacraments of confirmation and first Communion, came forward by parish, along with their sponsors, to greet the archbishop and be welcomed by him.

Jordan Wallman, a candidate from Sacred Heart Parish in Omaha, who grew up Lutheran, called the experience “momentous.”

“It was very welcoming, it was a good opportunity to feel like I’m coming into a family,” he said. “That was awesome.”

Catechumens and candidates began their preparation last fall, attending regular Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes in their parishes.

After the Rite of Election ceremonies, which take place each year on the first Sunday of Lent, they continue their study and prayer throughout Lent as they prepare to be welcomed into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil at their parishes.