UK: thousands prepare to become Catholic at Easter

More than 4,700 people gathered in Cathedrals across England and Wales this past weekend as part of their preparation to be received into the Catholic Church.

Around 900 of those people will be received into the Catholic Church and registered as members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham during Holy Week; this includes 61 former Anglican clergy in addition to the five who have already been ordained as Catholic priests.

Each year those preparing to join the Catholic Church are invited to attend a gathering called the Rite of Election. It is usually presided over by the Bishop and inaugurates the final period of preparation before being received into the Church.

The Rite of Election is an important part of a process called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) which is designed to support adults attracted by Christ and his teaching. In the months leading up to the Rite of Election it is usual for small groups to meet weekly to pray together and to find out more about the Catholic Faith.

The table below shows the number of people who attended the Rite of Election at their local cathedral at the weekend. In some dioceses, because of the distances between parish churches and cathedrals, not everyone who is preparing to become a Catholic was able to attend the gathering in the cathedral. This means that liturgies will also have taken place in some parish churches.

The people coming forward to be received into the Catholic Church are from all walks of life. A lorry driver, doctor, law clerk and a student are among several thousand people who are preparing to become Catholics. Bethany, for example, is a student at the University of Newcastle and will be received into the Catholic Church at Easter: "I think God has always been drawing me along my journey - at the difficult times and at the best times... I definitely think that the Journey in Faith will change my life."

Lorry driver, Michael, from Portsmouth said: "One time when I visited St Mark's Basilica in Venice, the peace was so tangible that I didn't want to was something that I'd never experienced in my life before... I knew it was time for me to make enquiries about becoming a Catholic."

For doctor, Clare, from Wadhurst Parish, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK was influential: "We watched virtually every step of his journey and my sons and I joined a pilgrimage to Hyde Park... All my prejudices and fears melted away as I recognised the love and humility shining out of his eyes."

The number of people who participated in the celebrations at the weekend is as follows:

Westminster                - Rite of Election      -            Personal Ordinariate
                                              829                                        62

Arundel and Brighton            181                                        25

Birmingham                          302                                       100

Brentwood                            362                                       240

Cardiff                                    62                                          -

Clifton                                  145                                         34

East Anglia                          102                                           -

Hallam                                 92                                            2

Hexham and Newcastle      151                                           -

Lancaster                             49                                           -

Leeds                                  111                                          -

Liverpool                            130                                          -

Menevia                              18                                           -

Middlesbrough                   85                                           -

Northampton                     91                                           -

Nottingham                     159                                         35

Plymouth                          80                                         60

Portsmouth                    214                                         61

Salford                           134                                          9

Shrewsbury                     93                                          -

Southwark                     517                                      167

Wrexham                        24                                          -

Total                            3,931                                    795

Bishop Kieran Conry, Chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis (Bishops' Conference of England and Wales), said: "The witness of so many people taking this life-changing step is so very encouraging.  Each year people freely choose to come forward from all walks of life, bringing with them unique experiences and talents. The Catholic Community welcomes them with love, friendship and the assurance of prayer. If you're considering taking a similar step or are not sure yet, come and see. Give your local Catholic church a ring or ask a Catholic friend for help."

Fr Keith Newton, who is the Ordinary (the priest who has pastoral responsibility) for the Personal Ordinariate said of those preparing to join: "I am greatly encouraged that these people will be received into the Catholic Church at Easter as members of the Ordinariate. During the next few weeks they will continue their prayerful preparation for this significant step.'

For more information about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) see: Those who are interested in becoming a Catholic are invited to contact their local Catholic parish. Also see the Catholic Enquiry Office's website:

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