Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Election Weekend" Dawns

Sure, the word "Lent" derives from the Old English for "spring"... but even so, one of the 40 Days' most powerful signs of new life in the church is upon us this weekend.

In local churches around the globe, Saturday and Sunday bring the Rites of Election -- the diocesan-level welcome for the catechumens and candidates for full initiation who'll be received into the fold at the Easter Vigil. Normally, the Stateside church welcomes some 150,000 new members through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a parish-based, volunteer-led effort that's become one of the great all-around success stories of ecclesial life, one whose catechists form a sizable chunk of our unsung heroes.

While many of the rites are held in the cathedrals of each place -- mostly with several editions to accommodate a diocese's full complement of converts -- some local churches either spread the event out, holding multiple editions across their geographic regions... or they gather everyone in one Mega-Rite at a secular space big enough handle the crowd.

Above all others, the latter is the case in the million-member Atlanta church, which will hold its second year of the Election at the city's convention center.

Already growing by leaps and bounds thanks to migration from points North and South alike -- and with one parish trying to move a closed New York church down, piece by piece, to serve as its "new" building -- last year saw the People of Wilt add another 2,000-plus to their number at the Easter font.

On a related note, in response to its sizable expansion, the Hotlanta church -- its membership nearly multiplied sixfold since 1990 -- is in the process of moving its headquarters from its prominent downtown perch on Peachtree Street to a suburban facility 12 miles away... a new chancery three times the size of its predecessor, with a long-scattered staff finally brought together under one roof.

In other chancery-moving news, meanwhile, at mid-week the diocese of Pittsburgh announced its intent to sell its longtime offices on the Steel City's Boulevard of the Allies and relocate to the campus of St Paul's Seminary, where Bishop David Zubik already keeps his residence.

The chancery sale would be the second major downsizing for the Steeler Nation church since Zubik's 2007 homecoming in succession to now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl. On his return, the native-son ordinary sold the longtime Bishop's Residence, which the diocese had held for over a half-century, and took up an apartment on the seminary grounds.

Of course, that's not to say everything's shrinking in the 'Burgh -- the incoming auxiliary might be "diminutive" in frame, but Bishop-elect Bill Waltersheid will double the diocese's episcopal quotient come his ordination on Easter Monday. So they say, the new #2's responsibilities are still being figured out.

Back to where we started, though, to anyone out there taking the leap this weekend, as they say in Ireland, "you're very welcome" among the lot of us -- if anything, we're all the better for your coming.

Thanks for your "yes," and wherever it exists, apologies for the mess. The fridge is stocked, so grab whatever you'd like... and above all, if there's anything the rest of us can do to lend a hand, please, don't be afraid to ask.

PHOTOS: Catholic San Francisco(1);