SAN DIEGO — A massive Catholic liturgy that annually draws about 3,500 people is moving to a new venue this year.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, the diocesan ceremony that represents a major step in the process of becoming Catholic, will be celebrated on Sunday, March 1, at the Town and Country convention center in Mission Valley.
For the past 10 years, the event had taken place down-town at Golden Hall, where it was held 20 times over the past 27 years.
“We decided to move to a larger venue that would accommodate our needs and our growing community,” Diocesan Chancellor Maria Olivia Galván explained.
About 1,000 catechumens (those who have never been baptized) and candidates (those who are baptized but have not been fully initiated) from about 75 Catholic faith communities, including parishes, college campus ministries and military communities, are expected to attend. They will be accompanied by their godparents and sponsors, as well as parish RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) team members and other guests.
During the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, the catechumens and candidates are presented to Bishop Robert W. McElroy, who asks whether they have been fully prepared to enter the Church. Upon receiving an affirmative response from their godparents and sponsors, the bishop declares the catechumens to be “members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries,” and urges the candidates to “hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”
The elect will be baptized and both the elect and the candidates will receive their first Holy Communion and the sacrament of confirmation at their parishes during the Easter Vigil Mass.
“While all diocesan liturgies are filled with great joy, in the Rite of Election, we witness the Holy Spirit fully alive and at work, inspiring an abundance of faith, hope and love,” said Noreen McInnes, director of the diocesan Office for Liturgy and Spirituality. The rite is composed of a Liturgy of the Word, “in which the catechumens and candidates encounter Christ in the Word, the celebrant, and the assembly, but leaves them hungering for the encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, which begins at the Easter Vigil.”
Galván said the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is “one of those moments that the Church is really looking forward to” each year. Despite the many challenges facing both the Church and the world today, she said, the number of catechumens and candidates shows that “there’s so much hope and hope is very much alive.”
The large scale of the event shows the catechumens and candidates, who have experienced parish life but perhaps do not yet comprehend the size and scope of a diocese, that they are part of something much larger than themselves, Galván said.
But the sight of about 1,000 soon-to-be Catholics standing before the bishop in the auditorium, she said, is also something that inspires the many current members of the Church in attendance.
“To see that, it really fills your heart with joy,” Galván said, noting that the catechumens and candidates represent a diverse group that runs the gamut from young children to the elderly.
“I’m glad that they’re finding a home in the Catholic Church,” she said.