By Joyce Gan

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SINGAPORE - The Singapore Archdiocese will welcome 1,059 new Catholics at Easter. These are the Catechumens (non-Christians seeking baptism) and Candidates (those baptized in another Christian faith but who seek full communion with the Catholic Church) who celebrated the Rite of Election recently. They have been journeying for between one to two years with the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and its youth processes in various parishes.

The Rite of Election was held at Church of the Holy Spirit for parishes in North, West and Serangoon districts on Feb 24; Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour for parishes in East and City districts on Feb 25; and Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea for the Mandarin-speaking Catechumens and Candidates on Mar 4.

121.jpgIn all, 1,011 Catechumens and 48 Candidates were elected. "Election" refers to the idea that God continues to call people through his covenant with Israel. The Rite of Election provides an opportunity for those whom God chooses to the Sacraments of Initiation, to enrol their names.

Traditionally, the RCIA coordinator of the Singapore Archdiocese organizes the Rite of Election. This year, the responsibility was entrusted to Janet Lim from CANA - The Catholic Centre because the RCIA coordinator is studying overseas.

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The names of those to be initiated at Easter were traditionally presented to the archbishop during this Rite. This year, Msgr Eugene Vaz accepted the enrolment of names on behalf of Archbishop Nicholas Chia at all the Feb 24 and 25 ceremonies while Father Paul Tong celebrated the Rite for the Mandarin-speaking community. In his homilies, Msgr Vaz exhorted the Elect to stand firm as they continue their journey towards Easter baptism. He told the congregation that "Jesus' story is ours". Jesus too, was tempted as he went through his 40 days in the desert, Msgr Vaz said.

Right, Msgr Eugene Vaz, Archbishop's appointed delegate for the celebration of the Rite of Election, blesses the Books of Elect, an expression of the desire that the Elect's names be lifted up to God.

"This is our basic challenge. As your final preparation is to start, you will go through a lot of temptations. It's the same as we baptized people have, not to live our Christianity conscientiously but to play games with our Christian life, to live it only when we want to," he said. But he encouraged all to follow Jesus' example as "he kept on saying 'yes' to God".

"It is a wonderful day for you, a joyous day. God is electing you, assuring you and we, this Christian community, is so sure of you to be elected in Jesus," he told them.

The Elect will celebrate three Rites of Scrutinies over this Lenten period. They will examine their lives for temptations and the community will then pray that they will be freed from these temptations and be protected on the journey towards Baptism.

These Scrutinies are intended to complete the conversion of the Elect and to deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all. More information on the Mandarin-speaking Rite of Election is available in the Mar 27 issue of Hai Sing Pao.

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"The whole Rite, the enrolment of our names, signing of the Book of Elect by Msgr Vaz and the presentation of the catechumen by Father Joe was so significant. Standing there, I felt very happy  and proud of myself that I have advanced to another stage of my faith journey [and now] I cannot wait to be baptized."

- Ian Ferdinand Cheong, Church of St. Mary of the Angels

"An almost incredible joy crept into my heart. I did not really think much about it but I just felt joyful and light-hearted. [Maybe] because I am happy to be God's chosen or to be one step closer to baptism."

- Geraldine Yeo, Church of St. Ignatius

"The most significant part of the Rite of Election was when the people from different parishes came together wanting to choose Jesus as their way of lives from now on."

- Jenny Neo, Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

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