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 | Keishla Espinal

“The Church Loves You” – Bishop Parkes Welcomes People Seeking to Become Catholic

The Diocese of St. Petersburg will be welcoming nearly 500 people into the family of God this Easter, as new Catholics receive the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Recently, these individuals and their families gathered at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle so they could each be named and acknowledged by Bishop Gregory Parkes.

“You are the Catholic Church today. When we gather here at this Cathedral, we are one Church family, with all our diversity. The Church loves you and the Church needs you to be witnesses to the love and mercy of God, his Son Jesus Christ in our world today,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes during his homily at the Rite of Election on Feb. 18, 2024.

At the Rite of Election, parishes introduce catechumens to the bishop for their final preparations to become Catholic. These individuals, now called the "elect," will receive Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.

Sharon Bechtold and her son, William from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Citrus Springs are preparing to become Catholic.

From left to right: William Bechtold, John Bechtold, Joseph Bechtold, and Sharon Bechtold at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle for the Rite of Election on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by Keishla Espinal

The journey towards Catholicism has been long for Bechtold and her family. While her father was Catholic, she was not raised in the faith. Bechtold started attending a Lutheran church in junior high but drifted away. Bechtold then explored the Orthodox Church but she still didn’t feel like she belonged. Bechtold then found St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church near her home, and it felt like the pieces had fallen into place.

“The more I looked into St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the more I realized this is what I was looking for,” Bechtold said. “It was a moment of discovering, ‘Wow, this was always here.’”

Bechtold has fallen in love with the beauty of the Catholic Church and is looking forward to the Easter Vigil on March 30th, when she will be welcomed into God’s family and enter the sacramental life of the Church.

“I am very excited to be a part of this. I am most excited and looking forward to receiving the Eucharist,” Bechtold added.

Her husband, Joseph, and her other son, John, are candidates who are already baptized in the Christian faith and are seeking full communion in the Catholic Church through the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.

For more photos from the Rite of Election click below.

Rite of Election 2024