Bishop Malooly emphasized the joy on the journey to joining the Catholic Church during the Feb. 25 rites for catechumens and candidates at Holy Cross Church in Dover.
He welcomed more than 200 people from the Diocese of Wilmington who began their Lenten journey toward baptism or full membership in the church that will culminate when they receive sacraments at this year’s Easter Vigil.
About 80 catechumens, people who have never been baptized, participated in the Rite of Election with the bishop. More than 125 people who have previously been baptized took part as candidates, those called to continuing conversion.
Just as Jesus prepared to preach the Gospel with 40 days of fasting, Bishop Malooly told the catechumens and candidates that their Lenten preparations to become Catholics will prepare them for the challenges of the new evangelization.
“God chooses us to be holy, to be church, to be his disciples,” Bishop Malooly said.
“You are elected for baptism, not because you earned it,” the bishop told catechumens, but because “God wants it.”
The bishop also urged the candidates to become closer to God, repent and be faithful to the Gospel during their Lenten preparations to conversion.
Bishop Malooly acknowledged the faith journey of the 200 people joining the church has happened during the sex-abuse scandals and the diocesan bankruptcy.
“We are flawed,” he said. “We are very much human; we always have been and always will be.”
Bishop Malooly asked those joining the church to be people of joy. He cited New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s talk on the new evangelization in Rome recently that emphasized joy in the faith as effective evangelizing.
“Joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence. You have found Jesus,” the bishop said. “Each of you will best serve the church, your parish and diocese, if you smile.”
The bishop asked the catechumens and candidates to be witnesses of the faith; to be disciples, walking through life as the disciples did with Jesus; to be role models; to be people of service helping others; and to be Eucharistic people.
Ted Griffith participated in the ceremonies at Holy Cross as a candidate from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Wilmington.
Baptized a Catholic as an infant in 1971, but not practicing for years, Griffith said his wife, Krista, is a practicing Catholic and he decided his family, including their son, should be “unified in faith.”
Kathryn Descanio, 30, said she was looking for a church to join as a family also. She and her husband, Joseph, have two sons.
She’s becoming a Catholic because she asked herself, “Why am I not? My mom was raised Catholic and it’s something in me that I wanted to do. I love the faith and I love the church.”
Descanio also loves her parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear, which she found after attending a variety of Catholic churches.
The parish was represented at the rites at Holy Cross by a comparatively large contingent of candidates and catechumens, something Descanio attributes to Father Roger F. DiBuo, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s pastor.
“I have never met a priest like him,” she said. “He makes you feel like a family, a community. We go out of our way to go to the church.”
Ray Shepherd, a candidate from St. Ann Parish in Bethany, said he was baptized Episcopalian and raised a Baptist.
He recalled he used to attend Mass with friends in the Boy Scouts who were Catholics. “I accompanied them to church.”
Later he married a Catholic girl (Ruth Ann) and this year, as their daughter Clara began preparations to make her first Communion, Shepherd, 46, decided to make his first Communion, too, joining St. Ann’s candidate class run by Olive Cannon.
He’s glad to accompany his daughter on his journey to full Communion with the church.
Shepherd said he has the joy Bishop Malooly was asking the new faithful of the diocese to display.
“It feels right to be here,” he said.