By SOCRATES PALMER Jr.S
Archbishop Dolan, presiding over his first rite of election ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral, welcomed some 600 catechumens and their sponsors and guests, telling them, "The prayers of the entire archdiocese are with you."
With the Feb. 21 rite, the catechumens—persons who have prepared to enter the Catholic Church—were one step closer to becoming Catholics. They will receive the sacraments of baptism, the Eucharist and confirmation at the Easter Vigil in their parishes.
Those at the cathedral came from 90 parishes across the archdiocese to publicly declare their candidacy, with their godparents beside them.
"It's my honor to be here today and welcome you into the Church," said Archbishop Dolan, who was about to mark the first anniversary of his Feb. 23 appointment as the 10th Archbishop of New York.
Addressing the 1,500 assembled guests, but the catechumens and their sponsors in particular, he said, "I ask that your godparents continue to take care of all of you and continue to support and care for you spiritually."
He also acknowledged the preparation work done by the archdiocesan Catechetical Office and its director, Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D.
During the ceremony the catechumens, who completed the period of instruction in the faith known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, were called forward individually, by name, to sign the Book of the Elect.
One of the many people that helped make the day a success was Anita Collins, who works in the archdiocesan chancery and finance department and was serving as a volunteer at the cathedral.
"It's a wonderful day for the Church of New York and it's great to see this new blood entering the Church," she said. "Seeing people coming into the faith makes me feel good because my faith has always been a steadfast part of my life, and to me it's very heartwarming to see this. I think it's marvelous and I just love it."
Claire Kurtz, a 22-year-old graduate student at New York University, prepared at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral parish in Manhattan and was accompanied at the ceremony by her sponsor, Alyssa Marulli.
Ms. Kurtz was born into a Catholic family but did not practice the religion. "Both my parents were raised Catholic, but I made the choice myself to pursue this," she said. "It's really inspiring to be celebrating this event with so many people."
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, she recently moved to New York to continue her studies in social work. Being at St. Patrick's Cathedral was a homecoming of sorts for her, she added, because her great-great-grandfather was a carpenter who worked on the construction of the cathedral.
Among those who worked with the catechumens in the parishes were Sister Maria Corona, P.C.I., coordinator of religious education at Our Lady of Angels parish in the Bronx, and her assistant, Silvia Santiago.
"We brought 16 people here today and it's just tremendous to see the joy on their faces," Sister Maria said. "They were all excited about coming here and getting a chance to be in the presence of the archbishop. They are all waiting to be active participants during Mass now—and for me, personally, I just loved seeing their faces as they heard their names being called."
The demographics of catechumens, their godparents and families at the cathedral reflected the diversity of the archdiocese; the Rite of Election was conducted in several languages, predominantly in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.
Once again, as in recent years, there was a very noticeable presence of Chinese catechumens, mainly due to a large group from Transfiguration parish in Chinatown and from St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.
The Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion are part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. They mark the beginning of the final period of preparation for the sacraments of initiation, which will be celebrated at Easter Vigil Masses throughout the archdiocese on Holy Saturday, April 3.
On Sunday, Feb. 28, the Call to Continuing Conversion for baptized persons who are preparing to receive confirmation and the Eucharist will take place at two locations. Archbishop Dolan will lead a ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral at 2 p.m. with 700 candidates participating along with their sponsors. Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro will conduct a ceremony at Sacred Heart Church in Newburgh, with 150 candidates participating with their sponsors.