By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND
Crookston – “It’s been such a journey,” said Patricia Branscombe of Holy Rosary, Detroit Lakes. She is preparing to receive Communion and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil and attended the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston, on March 10.
Branscombe was raised Lutheran but began considering the Catholic Church more than four years ago when she and her daughter began attending formation classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at Blessed Sacrament, Greenbush, where they lived at that time. Branscombe did not feel called to the Church then, but her daughter, Lindy Franco, did and was received into the Catholic Church.
Branscombe continued attending Mass with her daughter’s family in Greenbush, but it was difficult for both her and Franco that she could not receive the Eucharist.
Franco said for a time she was angry that her mother did not convert to Catholicism which led to arguments about it.
“Then we prayed, and I prayed, and I was trying to convince her to convert,” Franco said. Eventually, she realized she needed to step back and trust her mother to God.
“You have to do it when you feel called, not because I’m pushing you,” Franco said.
During this difficult time, Franco was impressed by her mother’s willingness to support her as she raised her children in the Catholic faith.
“It was important to her to not send mixed messages or undermine what we were teaching our children,” Franco said. “Not every grandmother would do that.”
Branscombe said she was following the example set for her by her grandmother, mother and aunt.
“The most important people in a faith journey are the people you grow up learning your faith from. I believe we teach them not only the academic part of it, but how to live the faith and that’s so important,” she said. “It’s so important as a family to raise the children with a strong faith.”
They moved to Detroit Lakes in August and began attending Mass at Holy Rosary.
“It was her idea to take the course and all of this has been her idea,” Franco said.
Branscombe’s face lights up when she talks about receiving the Eucharist at Easter. One of her grandson’s will receive his First Communion the weekend after she does.
“I will be able to fully participate in that special day,” Branscombe said, with tears of happiness in her eyes.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion are held at the Cathedral on the First Sunday of Lent each year.
“What we do this afternoon keeps us in touch with some of the earliest times in our Church,” Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner said during the homily. “Thanks to all in the parishes who have been helping the catechumens and candidates. It is good for you to come before the bishop. It’s our roots, it’s what the Church has done for centuries.”
During the Rite of Election, the catechumens – or those seeking the Sacrament of Baptism as well as Eucharist and Confirmation – are presented to the bishop with their godparents who attest to their readiness. The catechumen then sign their names in the Book of the Elect.
The Call to Continuing Conversion is for those who have been baptized and seek to complete their Christian initiation by receiving the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. They were called forward with their sponsors who testified to the bishop about their readiness.
“The Holy Spirit is the one who has been stirring your hearts,” Bishop Hoeppner said. “It’s God drawing us to life in God – to Baptism if you haven’t received it yet and to fuller communion in God’s family. It’s the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that worked in Jesus, the same Spirit that was given to the Apostles at Pentecost.”
Kaylie Peterson and Adam Streits, of Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks, said going through the RCIA process is bringing them closer to God and closer to one another. Streits is Peterson’s sponsor, and they plan to marry in September.
“I was baptized Catholic, but confirmed Lutheran, so ever since I started to date him, we’ve taken the Catholic journey together,” Peterson said.
Streits, who grew up in the Catholic faith and attended Catholic school, is glad to attend formation classes with Peterson.
“You almost forget about a lot of it because you are younger and not paying attention much,” he said. “Once you’re 30-something and you slow down and want to learn, you catch on to more.”
Peterson said going to her First Reconciliation was the hardest part of the process so far. She was nervous but prayed a lot leading up to it and is glad she received the sacrament.
Sandra Girtz, a candidate from St. Joseph, Bagley, said realizing she needs the Eucharist made her decide to become Catholic. Her husband, Michael and younger son are Catholic.
“I have been going to Mass at the Catholic Church for over 10 years,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t really belong yet; I felt like I needed to do this part to belong to the Church.”
Her older son, Dylan Lewis, is a catechumen and will receive Baptism, Communion and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil.
Girtz said going through the RCIA program with Dylan has been a wonderful experience.
“He has a disability so it’s just great to see him growing in the Church,” she said. “He likes to help out wherever he can, and I feel like that is already showing that he wants to be a part of it.”
The catechumens – now called the elect – and candidates will continue preparing throughout Lent until the Easter Vigil arrives and they are received into the Catholic Church, the living Body of Christ on Earth. The Diocese of Crookston currently has 33 candidates and nine catechumens enrolled in RCIA.