During the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on March 1, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory expressed the excitement in this local Church for the more than 1,100 people entering into full communion with the Catholic Church this Easter. 

“We realize that such rejoicing rightfully belongs to Easter, so please excuse us if we lose control and blurt out how happy we are to have you join us on the journey of faith. We just can’t control ourselves,” the archbishop said. 

The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion is a closing ceremony for the Period of Catechumenate of those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in the nearly 100 parishes and campus communities participating throughout the Archdiocese of Washington. The group attending on March 1 was one-half of the 1,142 people from throughout the Archdiocese of Washington who will become full members of the Catholic Church at Easter. Another Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion will be held on March 8 for the remaining half. 

As the ceremony fell on the First Sunday of Lent, Archbishop Gregory reflected on how the local Church feels about welcoming people into the faith at Easter. 

“Lent is a time given over to deeper prayer, works of charity, penitential practices and renewed revolutions for richer spiritual growth,” he said. “We attempt to allow silence and understanding to work their wonder in our lives during this time of year.”

The archbishop added that such a ceremony brings “delight” at the idea of adding those present into the family of faith. 

“We see great hope and wonderful promise in the faces of those who are already our sisters and brothers and who will more perfectly become so with the Easter sacraments,” Archbishop Gregory said. “We witness the presence of so many remarkable people who have opened their hearts to the power of God’s Holy Spirit and will renew the Church in their baptismal promises in a few short weeks. We see tomorrow dawn for the Church.”

During the March 1 Rite of Election, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory welcomes catechumens preparing to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

During the Rite of Election, presenters from each parish announced the names of the catechumens as they processed to the front of the basilica to greet Archbishop Gregory, where they were then presented and affirmed by their godparents. The catechumens also expressed their intent to receive the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Communion -- and they were recognized as members of the elect. 

At the Call to Continuing Conversion for those who have already been baptized, candidates and sponsors were gathered in the sanctuary of the basilica and, like the catechumens before them, affirmed their intention to complete the sacraments of initiation. 

Amin Njinju, who will be confirmed this Easter at St. Matthias Church in Lanham, Maryland, is eager to be in full communion with the Church, she said. It has been 24 years since she received the sacrament of Holy Communion. The day’s Call to Continuing Conversion was full of “excitement” for her. “I have a pleasant feeling in coming closer to God,” she said.

Philip Ha and Stella Myung (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

For Philip Ha and Stella Myung, receiving Confirmation at Easter will allow them to enter into full communion with the faith, after being baptized on Dec. 31 and married just one week later. Attending the Korean Catholic Church in this archdiocese, St. Andrew Kim in Olney, Maryland, Ha said the upcoming weeks, being in Lent, will be a way to be attentive to “what Jesus went through,” in His passion, death and resurrection. 

Myung said that just as at Easter, Christ is reborn, “I feel that my new family is reborn. I’m new born in my life.”

Chris Boehmler (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

After growing up attending parochial school, Chris Boehmler decided not to continue with Confirmation in high school, but 25 years later, he is overjoyed to return to the faith. 

“I began reflecting in life, and it’s as simple as I started to see Truth,” he said, particularly through great people including his brother, who has been incredibly supportive. “He helped to plant the seeds, and the seeds grew and more seeds came, and those spread and grew and through that the fire has grown in me.” 

The Call to Continuing Conversion, he said, “is an energizing step to feel God’s love through all the people that are here with us.” 

Boehmler will be confirmed at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Church in Washington at the Easter Vigil. 

Faith Kean (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Faith Kean is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying theology and neurobiology and is also on the pre-med track. After taking an Introduction to Biblical Literature course for her theology requirement during her first semester, she enrolled in another Theology course, on “The Thought of Aquinas.” 

“That was groundbreaking in my view of the world and how I perceive things and analyze things,... it really changed everything,” she said. “Through God’s grace, I found I was more called (to enter the Church).”

Her sister, who converted to Catholicism a few years ago, will be her sponsor, along with her theology professor at Georgetown.

“I really found a drawing to the Catholic Church through its intellectual rigor, and I like the philosophical tradition,” she said. 

Coming from a Protestant background, Kean said in Catholicism she has found a fullness of the faith. 

“It's a fuller and richer faith,” she said. 

The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion was “beautiful,” she said, noting the unifying aspect of the Catholic Church bringing so many people together. 

“Coming here and seeing people from a wide range of cultures and churches is really beautiful to see the unifying part of our faith,” she said.