SAVANNAH—Making a parallel between the liturgical timing of Lent this year and its seasonal timing, at least here in southern Georgia, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer OFM. Conv., told the catechumens and candidates preparing to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church that the next 40 days would be a chance for them to grow.
“I see new growth,” Bishop Hartmayer told the “perfect mosaic” of the universal Church sitting before him March 5 when he addressed the churches in the deaneries of Savannah, Statesboro, Valdosta and Brunswick at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. The previous day, he addressed the churches from the deaneries of Albany, Columbus and Macon at Sacred Heart Church in Warner Robins. “I see the freshness of spring. I see the newness. I see the color of spring. I see the variety of spring here.”
Emotion evident in her voice, Amanda Brown of Saint Boniface Church in Springfield expressed a sense of relief at having come so far in her spiritual journey, noting the “trials and tribulations” she’d endured for the past two years.
“I feel like a weight’s been lifted. I feel like this is a new start in my journey with Christ,” Brown, who has never been baptized before but grew up in a multidenominational Christian family, said before the Rite of Election. “This is something I’ve been wanting for a very long time and here I am today.”
Explaining the next step of the initiation process, Bishop Hartmayer later joked that the elect would not be taking many notes but would need to use the catechetical instruction they’ve already received to grow and develop in their interior relationships with God.
“You will hear the gospel proclaimed differently now. It is the real presence of God speaking to us individually and communally,” Bishop Hartmayer said. “You are in a different disposition now. You are more open to the message of the scriptures, particularly the gospels.”
Such a relationship, he then noted, could be a challenge in our rapidly evolving culture.
“It is more difficult today perhaps than ever before to be single-minded and to concentrate on our relationship with God and on making him the center of our life and to put all away all that distracts us from loving him, from realizing his presence in our life and his desire to come to know us and love us and forgive us in a greater way.”
Prior to the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion celebration, candidates Michael Carter of Saint Francis Xavier Church, Brunswick and Kennedi White of Saint Benedict the Moor, Savannah both expressed their hope that their formation will help them grow as Catholic adults.
“It’s moving, it’s inspiring,” Carter said of getting the chance to sign the book and participate more in the Church. “It makes me want to be a better man.”
White, 13, who is waiting to be confirmed, wants to learn more about the role of women in the Church.
She said, “I have four siblings and we’ve always been told that at least one of us will be a priest and because I’m not male I can’t be a priest without being Baptist or Methodist so I wanted to look into other ways I can help around the church with being actually involved instead of just being a lector or continuing to be an altar server.”
Jessica L. Marsala is assistant to the editor at the Southern Cross.