Mildred Chew, 38, was going from church to church, temple after temple to find a place where she could belong. None made her feel as comfortable as she did attending Mass at Catholic churches while a primary and secondary student in IJ schools.

So when she saw a banner announcingthe RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at the Church of Nativity she enrolled herself.

"I felt this is where my faith lies," she told CN at the Feb 13 Rite of Election held at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.

At the Easter Vigil March 26 she will be among 1051 to be received into the church after 12-18 months of journey in the RCIA process.

1051 New Catholics

Two other Rites of Election were held on February 12 and 20 at the Church of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity respectively. Prior to the Rite, the catechumens signified their desire to join the Catholic Church by signing their names in the Book of the Elect of their parish. Each of the books was presented to Archbishop Nicholas Chia at the Rite of Election. Following the ceremony, the candidates were declared as Elect or "chosen ones."

The Rite of Election also acknowledged 48 Candidates or baptised Christians desiring to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

Book of ElectThe Rite of Election, traditionally held on the first weekend of Lent, is the start of final and intense preparations for the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist during the Easter Vigil, which falls on March 26 this year. As a sign of full communion the Candidates will receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. From the third to the fifth Sunday of Lent, the Elect and Candidates go through the Rites of Scrutiny, where they are asked to reflect deeply on the Gospel.

In his homily, Archbishop Chia exhorted the catechumens and candidates to "be grateful that God has bestowed" the gift of faith on them and assured them of the church's prayer and support.

Book of Elect"I'm excited and nervous because it's a big step," noted Mildred at her impending Easter Vigil baptism. "But I'm prepared for the journey." Agreeing, Mark Chia, 54, added, "It is great to become a Catholic. The faith is open in that it allows you to get to know and mix with members of other religions. It makes one feel free."

While Mark was journeying with the RCIA in Novena Church, his daughter is attending RCIA classes at St Anne's parish. Two other children are waiting to join. "They want to convert because we all have been schooled in Catholic environments," he said.

Another excited would-be Catholic is Anastasia Chin, 20, who is journeying with the RCIA in Holy Trinity Church. "I've been waiting for this day for a long time. I've wanted to join the process since 2003 but heavy school commitments prevented me," she added. "I want to get baptised fast."

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