RITE OF ELECTION - During the Feb. 21 Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz greets a candidate who plans to enter the Catholic Church this Easter. (SNR photo by S.L. Hansen)
LINCOLN (SNR) - More than 100 people who are preparing to enter the Catholic Church this Easter attended the Rite of Election at the Cathedral Feb. 21.
These candidates and catechumens are just a portion of the 141 who are expected to be confirmed this coming Easter in the diocese.
Indeed, the Catholic population is growing throughout the United States. The newly released 2010 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches shows that U.S. membership has increased by approximately 1.5 percent, to more than 68 million members.
At the Rite of Election, the candidates and catechumens indicated their intention to become confirmed in the Catholic Church. Each was personally welcomed by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz.
Candidates are either baptized Catholics who have never received the Sacrament of Confirmation or baptized non-Catholics who wish to convert to Catholicism. Catechumens are those who have yet to be baptized.
The Barta family of Hastings has both candidates and a catechumen entering the Church. Richard Barta, a former Baptist, and his wife, Christina, who was baptized Lutheran, are currently completing their instruction so that they can be confirmed Catholic. Their 16-year-old son, Kyle Weaver, is a catechumen.
Concerns about Kyle’s education led the Bartas to Catholicism.
“The public school wasn’t providing the education I wanted for him,” explained Mrs. Barta. “We decided to enroll our son at St. Cecilia’s (High School).”
Before accepting Kyle as a student, Father Troy Schweiger, superintendent, invited the family to tour the school. Both the Bartas were impressed with how down-to-earth the priest was. As they became more involved with the school, they became more curious about Catholicism.
Mrs. Barta recalled visiting a Catholic church with a friend when she was a teenager.
“I really felt so close to God there,” she said. “I was seeking that again, and I found it the moment I walked into St. Cecelia’s.”
They were pleased to be so warmly welcomed in the Catholic Church.
“It’s truly like a family,” Mrs. Barta said. “They accepted me as I am. They told me, ‘You’re already part of the Church…We’re all brothers in Christ…’”
The Bartas enrolled in Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes at their parish, St. Michael in Hastings. Kyle attends the classes, too, so the whole family is learning the basics about Catholicism together under the tutelage of Father Michael Houlihan.
At St. Joseph Parish in Geneva, another family is preparing to be unified as Catholics. Richard Evans is preparing to be baptized Catholic, joining his wife, Michele, and their two children in the Church.
Mr. Evans was raised to believe in God, but his family was never part of any particular church. As a teenager, he attended a handful of church programs with Lutheran friends in his hometown of Hyannis. That was the extent of his religious education.
“My wife is Catholic, and when we were engaged, we decided to raise our kids Catholic,” Mr. Evans said.
He said his wife never pressured him to become Catholic, but they both agreed that it would be better for their children if they were all unified in faith. When the couple’s youngest child was baptized last year, Father Michael Morin, pastor of the parish, asked Mr. Evans about his faith.
“I had questions to ask him, too,” Mr. Evans said. “It just felt real comfortable meeting with him.”
The more he learned, the more Mr. Evans realized that Catholicism is right for him.
“I like the tradition, how they haven’t changed with the times,” he said. “And the discipline – not going just because that’s what you have to do, but going because you want to.”
He added, “I believe in discipline, and I think it’s lacking in our society.”
At St. Mary Church in Ashland, Adam Wahl is also learning more about what it means to be Catholic as he meets with his pastor, Father Gary Coulter.
“I’ve learned so much about why we do everything we do,” he said. “All the sacraments are there for a reason.”
Mr. Wahl grew up Southern Baptist in his home state of Alabama. From what he observed, religion seemed to be something that people did because that’s what was expected of them.
“My wife introduced me to the Catholic Church,” he said.
Catholics, he believes, “are more dedicated… It makes me feel closer to God when I’m in the Catholic Church.”
Like Mr. Evans, Mr. Wahl is also conscious of setting the right example for his children.
“I want them to want to be Catholic, instead of just going along for the ride,” he said.
Mr. Wahl is eager. “I am very much looking forward to receiving the Eucharist,” he said.
The Bartas agree. Easter can hardly come soon enough.
“I want to be completely in the church,” Mrs. Barta said. “I think I will continue to grow and learn more.”
“I’m excited to see what comes up next,” Mr. Barta added. “The Lord has really guided us, and this is like another step on the journey.”
He continued, “Ever since we got married, I would pray to God and ask him for more patience, more wisdom, more understanding. And I want to be a better father. I’ve noticed that since we got involved with the Church, my prayers have been answered.”