RITE OF CALL TO CONTINUING CONVERSION Church welcomes its newest family members
By Steve Euvino
Northwest Indiana Catholic
GARY – After Karen Brzykcy’s husband died two years ago, she felt something was missing in her life. She found that something in the Catholic Church.
“It’s home, understanding, and help,” she said. “It’s everything – it brought me life, it brought me peace.”
A member of St. Mary, Kouts, Brzykcy was among the nearly 80 candidates from 18 parishes and parish clusters participating in the Rite of Call to Continuing Conversion at Holy Angels Cathedral on Nov. 22.
Joann Murphy, a candidate from St. Mary, Griffith, noted, “I’m so happy for the joy of the Catholic faith. I feel I’ve come home spiritually.”
In welcoming candidates to the cathedral on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Bishop Donald J. Hying recalled growing up in a family of six boys and no girls. Each time one of his brothers announced an engagement, the bishop said he “felt a special joy” in welcoming a new sister-in-law who went from being a stranger to a friend to a relative.
“I feel that same joy today,” Bishop Hying said.
Candidates are those already baptized – some in a Catholic church – but who have not received the other sacraments.
“We’re already united in baptism, in Christ’s saving death and resurrection,” Bishop Hying said. “We’re getting new relatives, new brothers and sisters” who provide the Church with new energy.
“The Church is not a static body, but a living family,” the bishop said.
Recalling the pilgrimage in September to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis and the just-completed National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Bishop Hying said, “I see so much life in the Church, and people are flocking to join this family.”
With this family, the bishop added, comes a duty.
“The Lord has called all of us to a life of discipleship and ongoing conversion,” Bishop Hying said, noting the day’s rite “does not mean the job is finished. Indeed, it is only beginning.”
Following the homily, candidates were presented to the bishop and were introduced by parish. Bishop Hying then examined the candidates, with sponsors nearby, as to their readiness for receiving confirmation and their first Comm.
Placing a hand on the shoulder of the candidates, sponsors pledged their support. The bishop then publicly recognized and accepted the candidates’ intent to fully enter the Church at their respective parishes during the Easter Vigil.
Melissa Hailey, who was baptized an Episcopalian, felt the Catholic Church was the “right fit” for her. “I didn’t realize how involved the Church is, or how beautiful,” said Hailey, from St. Mary, Crown Point.
Pam Velasquez, from St. John the Evangelist, St. John, found the Sunday afternoon rite “beautiful.” Baptized a Catholic, Velasquez said, “I want to get a deeper, richer understanding of the Catholic Church.”
Gisella Thomalla was not baptized Catholic. She attended a Catholic high school and the University of Notre Dame, but she never joined the Church. now, she said, “It was time.”
A friend asked Thomalla to attend Mass at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center, Valparaiso, and she enjoyed the experience.
From Our Lady of Sorrows, Valparaiso, Alicia Allen felt an “amazing atmosphere” at the cathedral, “being around that many people all coming together for the same reason.”
Joining the Church, Allen said, is “something I want to do, and this is the right time.”
Angie Karagiannakis, Allen’s sponsor, described the candidate as a “very giving mother and wife. She’s an asset to our church and our personal family.”
Looking at the candidates, Bishop Hying offered thanks and praise to God. He also thanked their pastors, teachers, sponsors, and all those “who showed us Christ.”
Bishop Hying noted that, as members of the Body of Christ, “our contributions are not negligible. Christ includes us, involves us, indeed compels us to give our witness, to make our contribution. We are actors in this great drama of conversion.”