First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Rite of Election Best Move Yet for Contortionist Entering Church
Chris Sheridan
OFFICIAL—Catechumens, with their sponsors behind them, sign the Book of the Elect at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the Rite of Election led by Cardinal Dolan Feb. 17. A total of 462 catechumens signed the book.

As a contortionist on the international stage, Uranmandakh Amarsanaa is accustomed to creating configurations. On Feb. 17 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Mongolia native who is preparing to come into the Catholic Church this Easter took a major step toward a significant spiritual transformation as a catechumen in the Rite of Election.

Ms. Amarsanaa, who is receiving her catechetical instruction at St. Vincent Ferrer parish on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was one of several hundred soon-to-be new members of the Catholic faith the archdiocese embraced at the cathedral ceremony celebrated by Cardinal Dolan.

Ms. Amarsanaa, 24, has resided in the United States since 2008.

About five years ago, a fellow contortionist who is Catholic spiritually inspired Ms. Amarsanaa. “As a child, I always believed in God and had strong values and today as an adult I felt that He was calling me in this direction,” Ms. Amarsanaa said. “I have good people around me that have supported my decision” to become Catholic, she added.

The Rite of Election ceremony is a formal celebration for men and women who have participated in their parish catechumenate (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process and are prepared to celebrate the sacraments of Christian Initiation at Easter.

The 462 catechumens who signed the Book of the Elect at the cathedral ceremony came from 85 parishes across the archdiocese: the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and Westchester County.

Indicative of the cultural diversity of the archdiocese, various ethnicities were represented at the catechumen ceremony at the cathedral. Readings were provided in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

A large contingent of catechumens of Chinese descent representing the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan was present.

Cardinal Dolan commended the catechumens for their choice to become Catholic and congratulated them for committing to the journey.

“You have made another significant step toward full initiation into our Catholic faith,” said the cardinal. “It is your duty now, as it is with all those who declare their belief in Christ, to be sincere in your profession of faith.”

The cardinal also encouraged the catechumens by underscoring the familial aspects of the faith they will soon call their own. “The Catholic Church is a family and, like any other family, we have problems,” he said. “Despite these problems we pray and ask for guidance and we do the best we can. You coming to the Church and joining our family make all of us proud.”

Joined by their godparents, sponsors and family members, the catechumens were called by name by Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., director of the archdiocesan Catechetical Office and Oscar Cruz, director the archdiocesan Catechumenate, to individually step forward to sign the Rite of Elect Book.

Angel Melendez, an MTA employee collection agent, is also coming into the Church through St. Vincent Ferrer parish. Melendez, 43, calls Brooklyn his home but said he began attending Mass at St. Vincent’s because it is just a few blocks from a stop on his work route.

He credits his wife, a practicing Catholic, as part of his motivation to go to church. He also cited as inspiration watching Cardinal Dolan celebrate the Christmas Mass three years ago. It was then, Melendez said, that he realized he wanted to be a part of the Church.

“I am glad I came to the Church and wish I would have done this sooner,” Melendez said. “Like the Cardinal said, we are a family and like all families we have problems but we pray and get through it.

“You look for guidance in prayer, in church and in our priest,” Melendez added. “As a father of two children and the grandfather of six, my intention as soon as I finish my process, I hope to bring my 20-year-old son who was baptized Catholic back into the Church with me, since he is at the age where he is more drawn to other things in the world.”


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