WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Harold Barnes of Red Deer, accompanied by his sponsor Diane McDonnell, is welcomed into the elect by Archbishop Richard Smith March 9 at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Shane Davies of Lloydminster was happy to have to opportunity to shake Archbishop Richard Smith's hand and hear his welcoming words.
Davies called the moment "special" and said it makes him feel more connected to his newly-found faith. "I feel even more inclined to join the Catholic Church."
Davies, 15, was one of almost 160 adult and child catechumens from across the archdiocese who affirmed their desire to become members of the Catholic Church in two separate ceremonies at St. Joseph's Basilica March 8-9.
The archbishop welcomed each catechumen personally.
Davies used to attend services at the United Church but his heart wasn't there. He decided to leave in 2012 and began exploring other Christian churches. "The original path to Christ was through
Catholicism so I decided to join the Catholic Church," he said.
"I told my mother that I wanted to join the Church so she signed me up (in the Rite of Christian Initiation at St. Anthony's Catholic Church). Now I'm on my way to becoming a Catholic at Easter."
Davies' sponsor, Joseph Benoit, 20, said he is glad Davies is joining the Church because he has a deep knowledge of history and a desire to live out his faith in his daily life.
"I have been hearing about how Shane in his classes has been challenging his teachers," Benoit said with a smile.
Harold Barnes, a WalMart greeter who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, became captivated by the Catholic faith after he began attending services at St. Mary's Church in Red Deer about a year ago.
The 62-year-old felt so welcomed at St. Mary's that he decided to leave the United Church and enrolled in the RCIA last September.
Diane McDonnell, who invited Barnes to St. Mary's and is his RCIA sponsor, said Barnes was deeply impressed by how he was treated by parishioners and the fact the church is handicapped friendly.
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Jodie Hill meets Archbishop Richard Smith.
"We have a special spot for wheelchair users," McDonnell said proudly. "Harold feels very comfortable at St. Mary's."
At the Rite of Election, the Church formally announces the names of those who will celebrate the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist – at the Easter Vigil. These individuals enter the cathedral as catechumens and leave as "elect."
In his homily, the archbishop reminded the congregation that the power of the crucified Jesus reached us through the sacraments, beginning with the sacraments of initiation.
"This is why you should look forward to the Easter sacraments yourselves. This is such a moment of anticipation and joy because through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist you are initiated into this body which is in union with Jesus."
Pamela Ripka of St. Albert has an Evangelical Christian background but she stopped attending church in her early teens. Nevertheless, God never abandoned her and continued to answer her prayers.
"I kind of struggled with my faith until recently, when I felt called to become a Catholic," Ripka explained. Last year she contacted St. Albert Parish and enrolled in the RCIA.
All along she has had the support of her Catholic fiancé Justin Kilfoy, who has accompanied her to RCIA classes. The couple plans to marry next summer at St. Albert Church.
"I'm not becoming Catholic just because he is, because we are going to get married," Ripka quickly clarifies. "It's something that I want to do on my own."
Being baptized a Catholic means the world to Ripka. "It means for me that I feel more secure in my relationship with God and Jesus," she said. "It means I have a place to go and confide when I'm under stress."
Jodie Hill, seven, was one of six children from Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce who attended the Rite of Election at the basilica. She didn't get baptized as a baby like her sister Jessica so her mom, Jennie Hart, enrolled her in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Children last year.
"I was very happy to meet the archbishop but I felt little scared," Jodie said.
As for her RCIC classes, the youngster said it was worth it. "I learned a lot of stuff about God. Now I'm ready to become a Catholic."