I had no idea what to expect when going up. I knew the parish (church) I am going into was only sending four (two catechumen, and two candidates-already baptized) so, I assumed there wouldn't be tons of people...boy was I wrong. I believe there were 95 catechumen, and 125 candidates, totaling 220 people from our diocese alone entering the Catholic church! Talk about exciting.
It was such a beautiful ceremony. Everyone was gathered with their own parish group, and they did a homily (sermon) and some readings, and then they had each RCIA leader come up and announce their catechumen, each would stand and say "present" and then make their way to the front of the church with their sponsor (person helping them grow and understand in the faith) to meet the bishop. The sponsor says "Bishop, I present to you Amanda _____" and the bishop says "Hello, Amanda, it's nice to meet you" and you shake hands, and then your sponsor returns to their seat, and the catechumen joins the rest at the front of the church until you are surrounded by 94 people going through exactly what you are going through, and joining the same big family you are. It was slightly awkward for me, as I was standing directly in front of the Blessed Sacrament (they have Perpetual Adoration at the church we were at) I LOVE the Eucharist. It was one of the first scriptural things that was revealed to me. It was awkward because of the realization that I was mere feet from the Eucharist, and I just had my back turned, I felt like I should be on my knees, praising God. So, that was awkward, but other than that, it was awesome.
It was an unexpected feeling of love and family standing up there, when you looked out into the audience all you could see was happy faces all seeming to say "welcome home" I noticed a gentlemen in the front row praying the entire time we were up there, how beautiful. As we stood up there each one of our leaders presented the bishop with the book of the Elect, which all the catechumen had signed during a small ceremony at our parishes, the bishop signed it, and then our leaders held the book high and proud to show that we were God's people, part of His family.
It was wonderful. It really hit me, we are the body of Christ. All of those people are my brothers and sister in Christ. This was all of them welcoming each and every single person into their family. When I first started this process I thought it was so strange that in order to become Catholic you had to go through classes, ceremonies like this, and then finally be welcomed at Easter. It was so strange to me, but now I get it.
One does not simply enter the house of God and "do as the Romans do" one must understand WHY they do as they do. They want you to be a part of this big, huge family, they want you to know you are dearly loved and welcomed, but most of all, they need you to know WHY you are doing what you are doing. Why they sing this, say that, or celebrate this. It's so rich and beautiful, all the history, the deep reverence for God. It's just breath taking.
Not an awesome picture, you can't see me, but I am there, I promise!