Hundreds take part in Rite of Election
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - Karen Walinow was so excited she was shaking as she signed the Book of the Elect.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Bishop Raymond J. Boland greets Harold Welch, a catechumen who will be baptized at Easter Vigil at Sacred Heart Parish, Warrensburg.
"Why wouldn't I be excited? I'm going to be baptized," said Walinow, who is entering the church at St. James Parish in Liberty.
"I had a stroke a year ago in November," she said after she returned to her seat at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. "The Lord saved me for a reason."
Walinow was one of 243 catechumens - those who have never been baptized in any Christian tradition - who took a step toward their baptisms at one of three Rite of Election ceremonies. Two were conducted Feb. 12 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Another was conducted Feb. 13 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.
At the same times, another 384 candidates - those who have been baptized in a Christian tradition but are seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church - took part in Call to Continuing Conversion rituals.
Coming from 65 of the diocese's 99 parishes and missions, the 627 catechumens and candidates will be received into full communion March 26 at Easter Vigil liturgy celebrations in their home parishes.
Presiding at the 10 a.m. Feb. 12 service, Bishop Raymond J. Boland celebrated his 46th Rite of Election as bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph since 1993, and previously as bishop of Birmingham, Ala., where he served from 1988 until 1993.
For Coadjutor Robert W. Finn, the 7 p.m. service on Feb. 12 and the Feb. 13 service in St. Joseph were his first.
Both bishops welcomed the new Catholics into the church with special words for the candidates that their former traditions served as a foundation of their faith.
"I find that sometimes a few of them feel a little bit scared, a little bit guilty," Bishop Boland said in his homily at the morning service. "They feel that what they did before was not good."
Bishop Boland said it wasn't true.
"Every good house needs a solid foundation," he said. "Whatever you experienced before, all these things have given you a foundation to make the step you are making this Lenten season."
Bishop Finn echoed that sentiment in the evening service.
"The gift of faith you have received in Christian baptism is not being diminished or discarded in any way by your entering the Catholic Church," he said. "It is a great gift. It will only be deepened as you take the next step as Christ calls you into fuller communion with himself."
The catechumens and candidates came in all age ranges.
Harold Welch, 81, said he always wanted to join the faith tradition of his wife, Juanita, but they never could quite find the time to attend classes. He will be baptized at Sacred Heart Parish in Warrensburg.
"Better late than never," he said.
"We've been married 35 years and he finally decided to be Catholic," Juanita said. "We have the time because I retired to take care of him. There is no excuse now."
The birth of Anna Dougherty's baby last October prompted the 24-year-old to seek full communion at St. Sabina Parish in Belton.
"He made the decision for me," she said of her son.
Her decision also prompted her brother, Jeff, 25, and her cousin Sean Halloran, 19, to seek full communion.
"She told me she was doing it, and asked me if I wanted to, and here I am," Jeff said.
"I've really enjoyed learning about the faith," Halloran said. "I just felt like taking this leap."
About four years ago, Chris and Kelly McLemore had their marriage blessed at St. Mary Parish in Nevada. Kelly told Chris that they now had two wedding anniversaries that she expected to be remembered.
When the first anniversary of the church-blessed wedding rolled around Chris asked her what she wanted.
"I told him I wanted him to go to Mass with me," said Kelly, a cradle Catholic.
"We've been going to Mass together now for three years," she said, pointing also to daughters Kelsey, 18, and Katie, 16.
"We had the opportunity to take classes as a family," Chris said. "We are doing this so that we can all share in the Eucharist as a family."
Michelle Castro, 24, watched life and death walk past her desk in the admitting department of Kansas University Medical Center.
"I see a lot of death, and I felt something was missing in my life," she said.
Castro called Sarah Kinkade, her best friend since seventh grade and a member of St. Therese Parish in Parkville, and asked her to sponsor her into the Catholic Church. She not only got Sarah, but also her mother, Vicki Kinkade. Together, they are walking the journey toward baptism at Easter Vigil at St. Gabriel Parish in Kansas City, near Castro's home.
"I couldn't have asked for a better sponsor than my best friend and her mother, who has been like another mother to me since I have known her," Castro said.
The bishops told the congregations at all three services that Jesus is calling them into a fuller life with him.
"Apart from him, we can do nothing," Bishop Finn said. "It's not so much that we come to him in this Rite of Election, but that he comes to us. He is the one who longs for an ever deeper relationship with each of you. Christ wants us to know him completely, and have a deep abiding joy in him."
"He will bless us and change us," Bishop Boland said. "We're here to be connected to Christ to such an extent that day after day after day, we become a little more Christ-like.
'I am the vine and you are the branches,' and one cannot live without the other."