More than a thousand expected to join Catholic Church this Easter

Catechumens writing their names in the Book of the Elect.

Be rooted in the Word of God because it, not the world, gives us the truth.

This was Archbishop William Goh’s message to catechumens and candidates preparing to become Catholics this Easter, during a Rite of Election held at Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on
March 5.

Referring to the Gospel reading where Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and nights and was tempted by Satan, Archbishop Goh said, “Whenever Jesus faced temptation, He always cited Scripture.”

Similarly, in a society full of worldly temptations where “modern man does not think he needs Jesus, choose God and really be familiar with His Word,” he urged.

He encouraged those preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion – to “spend at least half an hour praying to the Lord everyday.”

“If you do this and have an intense prayer life, your faith will be strong and temptations will not stir you,” said Archbishop Goh.

There were 406 catechumens (non-Christians seeking Baptism) and 44 candidates (baptised Christians seeking full communion with the Catholic Church) at the service held at Nativity Church on March 5.

The previous day at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, there were 389 catechumens and 38 candidates.

A Chinese Rite of Election was scheduled for March 12 at Nativity Church for 123 catechumens and six candidates. This would bring the total number of people entering the Catholic Church this Easter to 1,006.

Archbishop William Goh holding up the Book of the Elect. He urged those preparing to be baptised in Easter to ‘spend at least half an hour praying to the Lord everyday.’

The Rite of Election on March 5 saw catechumens writing their names in the Book of the Elect, which was in the form of a long scroll. Godparents placed their hand on the catechumens’ shoulder as they wrote their names.

After this was done, catechetical director Fr Erbin Fernandez presented the Book of the Elect to Archbishop Goh.

Candidates also participated in a rite called the Call to Continuing Conversion in which they were urged to hear the Lord’s call to conversion and be faithful to their baptismal covenant.

CatholicNews spoke to some of the Elect after the service for their thoughts.

“I feel God’s love at work here,” said Mr Bob Lim, 68, from the Church of the Holy Trinity.

“The support from the Catholic community has been overwhelming and I’m really looking forward to my baptism in Easter,” he said.

Ms Amelia Ang, 27, from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, said she felt “at peace” after the service and would be taking up Archbishop Goh’s call to “pray more fervently in preparation for baptism.”

The Rite of Election refers to an understanding that God continues to choose people through the covenant of baptism, just as He established a covenant with Israel. The rite provides an opportunity for the catechumens to be formally enrolled among God’s chosen people.

The Elect, as the catechumens are now called, will undergo the rite of Scrutinies during the Lenten season to help them examine their lives. The community will also pray that the Elect be freed from temptations and be protected as they continue their journey towards baptism. 

By Jared Ng
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Working on evangelisation and catechist formation

The Office for Catechesis shares more about its work in response to questions from CatholicNews. We present a condensed version of their replies here.

CN: In 2015, during the Rite of Election, Archbishop William Goh said he wanted to see a minimum of 5,000 catechumens a year in eight years’ time, and 15,000 in 17 years’ time. Is the Office for Catechesis (OfC) working to try and achieve this vision?

OfC: OfC is working closely with the Office for New Evangelisation (ONE), alongside other key organisations, to bring across the message that all Catholics are called to the apostolic mission to evangelise.

OfC also offers ongoing formation to equip catechists with evangelisation techniques. For the RCIA ministry in particular, we conduct formation on how to run the RCIA process more effectively and how to journey with catechumens during the process and beyond. OfC is currently collaborating with other organisations to look at the pre and post-RCIA process and examine ways to more effectively evangelise catechumens and disciple neophytes.

CN: In 2016, during the launch of the Catechetical Year, the archbishop said he felt the main weaknesses in catechesis were a lack of discipleship and a lack of community. Has the Office for Catechesis tried to remedy these issues?

OfC: Since 2010, OfC has been focusing on the formation of catechists as we believe that one has to receive the Good News first in order to be able to share it effectively. We have also been offering opportunities to build community among catechists through our courses, events and retreats.

In particular, Craft of Catechesis workshops as well as Commun-Tea events provide avenues for catechists to share best practices and learn from one another. We also have annual Days of Recollection for catechists and this year, we are offering a four-day Kerygma retreat to all those serving catechetical teams.

With regard to parent involvement, OfC runs parent-formation workshops to help catechists reach out to parents through formation and reflection on their role as primary catechists.

OfC is also collaborating with other organisations such as the Archdiocesan Commission for Families to explore how key stakeholders such as parents can be formed and involved in the catechesis of their children.

OfC’s formation opportunities increased by 30 percent in 2016 over the previous year and is slated to increase by 28 percent this year. In 2016, OfC kickstarted the Archdiocesan Catechetical Trainers (ACT) programme which aims to equip senior catechists to form and mentor catechists.

OfC prays that these ongoing efforts, over time and in collaboration with others, will help the archdiocese to achieve its vision of becoming a vibrant, evangelical and missionary Church.

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