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There is a special service at St Chad’s Cathedral this Sunday afternoon called the Rite of Election. This service always takes place on the first Sunday in Lent and is attended by people from all over the archdiocese. In the photo you can see Archbishop Bernard (left) talking with catechumens during the Rite of Election in 2015, assisted by Bishop Robert Byrne (far left) and Bishop David McGough (right).

The Rite of Election is an important event for those women, men, and young people who are making their Journey in Faith towards becoming full members of the Church at Easter. (Journey in Faith or RCIA is the programme that local Catholic churches use to help people find out more about the Church and discover what it means to be a Catholic. It can lead to becoming a full member of the Church. RCIA courses often start in the Autumn and run through till the following June. RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and is often also called Journey in Faith. It is indeed a journey: it is a gradual process that takes place within the community. It is marked by different stages, with special Rites which mark entry to the next stage.

The first stage is one of initial thought and enquiry and is one where the person interested in becoming a Catholic thinks about making initial enquiries, and wants to find out more. It is a time of initial discovery and encounter with Christ, with the Church, and with other Catholics. It can be formalised by attending RCIA meetings or course sessions which, when the time is right, can lead to the next stage.

During the next stage the enquirer becomes a Catechumen (if not yet baptised) or Candidate (if already baptised), and enters a period of more intense learning, study, formation and prayer. The Rite of Election is the special diocesan service which marks the entry into this phase, with everyone gathered together with their bishop.

During Lent the catechumen or candidate goes through a final period of purification and enlightenment, ready for the Easter Vigil at which they, the Elect, will receive the Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist — and become full members of the Catholic Church. After the Vigil there is a further period — the Mystagogia — during which the new Catholics are invited to reflect on their experience.

The RCIA is the normative model for people to become members of the Catholic Church. All other catechetical programmes — including First Holy Communion — are based upon it.

the photo is © the Archdiocese of Birmingham, used under licence: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Sunday 10 March at 10.00am
Opening songChrist, be our light (Farrell)
Lord, have mercy(Farrell)
Psalm 91On Eagle's Wings (Joncas)
Gospel acclamationPraise to you, O Christ + verse 1 (Farrell)
Preparation songWe will rise again (Haas)
Holy. HolyA Parish Mass (Peter Jones)
Memorial acclamationA Parish Mass (Peter Jones)
Lamb of GodAston (Peter Jones)
Communion song 1Because the Lord is my shepherd (Walker)
Communion song 2This is my body (Owens)
Recessional hymnBring forth the kingdom (Haugen)

First Sunday of Lent (Year C)