Diocese Welcomes 1,284 Joining Church


Members of three parishes in the Imperial Valley carried their Book of the Elect into St. Anthony Church in the city of Imperial on Feb. 17, 2024, at the start of the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremony. (Photo by Marcos González.)

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IMPERIAL — Ana Chacon arrived early for the 9 a.m. Rite of Election ceremony at St. Anthony Church on Feb. 17.

“This day is really joyful because my daughters have both decided to take the next step and have Jesus more in their lives,” she said.

Her daughters were among the 1,284 men, women and children who the Diocese of San Diego formally recognized over the weekend as being prepared to join the Catholic Church. In all, they attended five Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion ceremonies, the first in the Imperial Valley and the other four in San Diego, at Good Shepherd Church, on Feb. 17 and 18.

They  came from 73 parishes and communities, were accompanied by 323 parish teams that taught them the faith, 1,275 sponsors, and guests.

Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Pulido celebrated the ceremony in the Imperial Valley, assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano. Cardinal Robert W. McElroy celebrated the ceremonies in San Diego, accompanied by the two auxiliary bishops and by Auxiliary Bishop Michael Pham.

At St. Anthony’s, Chacon reflected on her daughters’ decision.

“It’s an honor to see that they have taken this step on their own because they really want to do their sacraments.”

The candidates and catechumens, as they are known in the Church depending on where they are in their faith journey, will receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass.

Chacon noted that one of her daughters had begun the process of joining the Church at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Brawley and then reached out to her younger sister to do the same.

The mother recalled thinking, “Let’s do it!”

She sat between her daughters and a grandson. One of them, Ana Marie Chacon, 26, is a catechumen and will receive the rites of initiation — baptism, confirmation and First Communion — at the Easter Vigil Mass.

Why did she want to join the Church?

“To have a better relationship with God, to fully surrender myself to Him and to be a more Godly woman,” the daughter said, adding, “I’m getting to know myself through God.”

Her sister, Rochelle Chacon Ruiz, 34, said she wanted to join the church because of her five children.

“I wanted to lead them to be closer to God,” she said.

She said that she “was always close to my Bible” when she was a child, then had grown distant from it. She now has returned to it.

“This day is precious. I know my children will follow now that I have taken these steps,” she added, as her son, Michael, around 8 years old, sat next to her.

Alicia Rahiotis was a catechumen about six years ago. On this day, she and her husband, Miguel Rahiotis, had brought 16 people to participate the Rite of Election ceremony. Last year, the couple had become coordinators of OCIA at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Calexico.

“This day is very special because all our catechumens are now in our parish’s Book (of the Elect), they are part of the history of the church,” she said.  “I went through the program, and I know how it feels.”

She said the individuals don’t just learn about the Catholic Church in a classroom.

“It’s something you start giving your testimony with,” she said. “They are starting their new path in life because this is just the beginning.”

Affirming ceremonies

In the Rite of Election ceremony, Bishop Pulido asked the sponsors to stand next to the catechumens. Following the official text, he asked the sponsors if the catechumens had sufficient knowledge of the Church and “had begun to walk in God’s presence?”

“They have,” the sponsors responded out loud.

Addressing the assembly, the bishop then asked, “Are you ready to support the testimony expressed about these catechumens and include them in your prayer and affection as we move toward Easter?”

“We are,” those on hand responded out loud.

“Since it is your intention to enter fully into the life of the Church, I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil,” the bishop told the catechumens.

He then asked the candidates and their sponsors to stand.

“Have they come to a deeper appreciation of their baptism, in which they were joined to Christ and His Church,” he asked the sponsors.

“They have,” they responded.

The bishop asked three more questions to the sponsors and those assembled, and all answered in the affirmative.

“Beloved candidates, the Church recognizes your desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and to have a place at Christ’s Eucharistic table. Join with us this Lent in a spirit of repentance. Hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to your baptismal covenant.”

Identity as a believer

In the Gospel, Bishop Pulido focused on the concept of personal identity, which defines who a person is. He said that the Rite of Election “calls to mind our identity. Who are we? Where are we going?

“Jesus knew He was the beloved Son of God; he knew His calling and mission. He knew who He was and where He was going.”

He noted that those present were from Brawley, Calexico, El Centro or other parts in the Imperial Valley.

“But in reality, we are one community of faith. And we rejoice that we are diversifying and growing our community of believers. And that is something to celebrate, the fact that we belong to a huge family.”

The bishop noted that the Diocese of San Diego serves people from many different backgrounds and cultures.

“You, who are here, are going to be part of this big family,” he said. “Imagine, 1,300 people, all of different colors, different nationalities, but being part of one family. Even though some people may think differently, some may be of a different skin color, we are one family, and that unites us.”

The bishop said that when St. Paul talked to the early Christians to remind them who they were, he told them that, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

“Let me add a few more categories from our time: there is no documented or undocumented, there is no immigrant or resident, there is no white, or black or brown, because we are all one in Christ.”

He said that “Christ and the Holy Eucharist bring us together. We need to live as Eucharistic people, that is our challenge.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the bishop thanked all who made the milestone possible, including priests, religious women, deacons, catechists, sponsors and family members.

“This if my first Rite of Election,” said the bishop, who assumed that- role last September. “I hope I did OK. I have a lot to learn.”

Applause rang out across the pews.

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