More than 175 men, women and children on the road to becoming Catholic were officially welcomed along their faith journey Feb. 26 by Bishop John B. Brungardt at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion celebration at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of the most significant events of the liturgical year, this is the official moment that candidates (baptized members of another Christian denomination -- or baptized Catholics -- who are seeking confirmation and first Eucharist) and catechumens (individuals who have not been baptized and who are seeking baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist) declare their commitment to entering fully the Catholic Church at Easter. The candidates and catechumens --along with their families, godparents, and sponsors -- came from every corner of the diocese, each waiting for that special moment when they would be called by name to sign the Book of the Elect, or to dip their fingers in the baptismal font. During his homily, Bishop Brungardt called forward third and fourth graders to sit on the steps of the apse. When asked for volunteers, one little boy raised his hand. The bishop led him in a walk around the altar, the cathedra and the pulpit, and as he did so he shared a story of a father and son escaping Nazi soldiers during World War II.
“The soldiers are searching house to house for the son and the father, and they’re trying to evade them,” the bishop said as he led the boy around the altar. “In the dark of the evening, the pair make their way to the outskirts of town and find a deep ravine to hide in.” The father, he said, climbed down the deep ravine, and called for his son to follow. They could hear the Nazi soldiers approaching. The boy trembled with fear as he looks down into the depth. “The boy calls out, ‘Dad! Dad, I can’t see you! Are you there, Dad?’ “‘Son! Son, I’m here! Jump; I’ll catch you. I’m here, son!’ The boy steps to the edge of the ravine and jumps. “Yes, this gift you’re about to receive or about to deepen,” the bishop told those gathered, “is a gift of faith. It’s the faith that little boy had in his father.... “Jesus established the Catholic Church 2,000 years ago and gave us the seven sacraments to help us grow in this love for God, and … for ourselves,” the bishop said. “You are preparing for these extraordinary sacraments, these unbelievable ways and gifts to assist us to grow in our faith. “Pope Benedict XVI -- successor of St. Peter who Jesus named ‘the Rock on which I will build my Church,’ has proclaimed a Year of Faith beginning this October and ending November, 2013. Pope Benedict writes, ‘The Year of Faith is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in his wholeness the love that saves and calls us to conversion, of life and forgiveness of our sins. That’s that Jesus gave us on the cross.’ “Let us grow in this faith. Let us ask our gentle Jesus to assist in our journey of faith toward the Easter vigil and beyond. Let us strive for conversion with God’s grace this Lenten season. Thank you, dear Jesus.” After the rite, all those gathered met in the Holy Family Social Hall for a dinner reception.