A record number of people in England and Wales will be received into the Catholic Church in Holy Week and Easter.
Over 4,700 people took part in Rite of Election ceremonies in dioceses around England and Wales last weekend, marking a bumper year of new faithful, both catechumens and candidates for reception.
The number was unusually high thanks to the number of groups of Anglicans being received into the Church in Holy Week for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – about 800 lay people and 61 clergy.
The Archdiocese of Westminster had the largest numbers of candidates and catechumens come forward with almost 900, 62 of whom will join the ordinariate in Holy Week, while 829 people will be received or baptised at Easter. It marks a slight drop from 2009’s record of 850 people being received into the Church at Easter. Southwark Archdiocese had a record 684, of whom 167 people were joining the ordinariate.
Meanwhile, according to the figures released by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Brentwood diocese has the highest number of former Anglicans joining the Ordinariate of all the English and Welsh dioceses, with 240 people. The south of England had the largest number of people joining the ordinariate while 11 dioceses, located predominantly in the north of England and Wales, did not have any people joining the ordinariate at the Rite of Election. Attendance to the Rite of Election was optional for former Anglicans joining the ordinariate.
The Diocese of Portsmouth experienced a record number of candidates and catechumens, without even counting the 61 former Anglicans joining the ordinariate.
Speaking at the Rite of Election, Bishop Crispian Hollis said: “This is my 23rd celebration of the Rite of Election in this Cathedral and in the diocese, and this year we are seeing the largest numbers I have known coming forward for the final stage of the journey to the Easter sacraments.”
During his homily he specially greeted those joining the ordinariate, and added: “Wherever you are coming from and whatever has been the character of your journey of faith, we are blessed by your presence. You bring a huge variety and experience of Christian life and your own personal journeys of faith to this celebration, to your parishes and communities, to the diocese and to the Church. You all have much to offer.”
Speaking about those joining the ordinariate, Bishop Kieran Conry, who is in charge of the Bishops’ Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, 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 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.”
Peter Jennings, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, said there were significantly more people coming forward for reception into the Church this year than last year. In the past the archdiocese has had one ceremony for the Rite of Election but this year they had two, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. This included four ordinariate groups, two coming forward for the Rite of Election on each day.