For The Dialog
Jo Wardell finally decided it was time to become Catholic.
“God’s been very patient with me,” she said. “He has given me lots of reminders.”
Those reminders include her overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma 10 years ago and giving birth to a son 17 months ago, despite being told after her cancer treatments that she would never be able to have a child.
So Wardell, 35, entered the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program at St. John the Beloved Church in Wilmington. She is one of 208 people who plan to enter the church this year in the Diocese of Wilmington.
Most of those people participated in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at Holy Cross Church in Dover on March 8. During the ritual, presided over by Bishop Malooly, those who had not been baptized Christian were declared “elect,” ready for reception into the church at the Easter Vigil Mass. Those who have already been baptized were called to continuing conversion.
Of those entering the church, 108 have not been baptized Christian.
Bishop Malooly called the Dover ritual one of his favorite events and celebrations of the year since it brings “a phenomenal amount of faith” together in one church.
He asked how many of the people attending — mostly those who are entering the church, their sponsors and families, and officials of parish RCIA programs — had gone through the RCIA previously. Several dozen stood.
“The beauty of that is that they are continuing to grow in their faith by helping you to learn the faith,” Bishop Malooly said.
He asked those coming into the church to strive for five goals:
“I want you to be a witness to your faith.
“We need to live out our faith.
“We also need to be role models for our peers.
“We need to be people of service.
“And, finally, we need to be people of the Eucharist” and “gather around the altar on a weekly basis.”
“I simply ask you to make the most of the gift that God has given you,” the bishop said.
James Kenney of Pocomoke City, Md., who is in the RCIA program at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, called the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion “awe-inspiring.” After so much hard work learning about the Catholic faith, he said, “everything’s culminating now.”
Kenney, 29, was baptized Episcopalian but his father is Catholic. The final push toward the Catholic faith was his decision to marry Charlotte Cain, who also is Catholic, this May at Holy Name of Jesus.
Amber Lahay, who will be baptized at St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury, Md., had been raised in a Christian family, but her parents were of different denominations.
Her father, a Baptist, and her mother, a Catholic, had decided that their children would decide for themselves what denomination they would join.
Amber, 18, left her Baltimore County home for Salisbury University last year. As she got out on her own, “I felt I was called to do more than what I had been doing.” She decided it was time to say what she believed. She did some homework, and found what she had already known in her heart: She wanted to become Catholic.
“I always felt I identified myself much more with that side of the family,” she said.
Putting off decision
Wardell kept putting off making a decision about her faith. She had been a member of the Brethren in Christ Church, but fell away in her 20s.
But, she said, “my faith has always been strong” even if she did not attend any specific church. That faith became very important when she was diagnosed with cancer. “I really had to rely on the Lord to get through that.”
The birth of her son was another step in her faith story. He was baptized at St. John the Beloved in January.
Eventually, she gave in to God’s reminders that she might consider becoming Catholic.
“Faith helped,” Wardell said. “It led me here.”