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Larry Lambert, Catechumen, Silently listening

Larry Lambert, a catechumen at Christ the King Church, Pine Mountain, attended Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, New Orleans earlier this month and heard something said by the celebrant that he has yet to forget. Equal parts storyteller and historian, there’s a good chance Lambert  “The words listen and silent are made up of the same letters. They are the same word. You can’t have one without the other.” Lambert enthusiastically told this story while explaining to the Southern Crosswhy he has decided to become a Catholic. “I feel our entire lives are spiritual journeys,” said Lambert who served in Vietnam as a flight medic after being drafted not long after his 18th birthday in 1971.

The Sarasota, Florida native and father of two adult daughters, jokes about how he had a “12-day summer” that year and that he’s “lived about five lifetimes.” He plans to live the remainder of his life as a Catholic, which means a lot to him as his daughters are Catholics. Living and worshipping in metro Atlanta and New Orleans, respectively. “There are a lot of reasons why I decided to become Catholic. One is the history of the church and its relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Lambert, 67. “I also love the way the church holds The Virgin Mary in such high spiritual esteem.”

During those lifetimes as a veteran he served for more than 18 years in the Florida National Guard, and more recently as a Professor Emeritus for Tulane. Becoming a Catholic was something he has always been interested in. Lambert’s late wife, Pamela Rollins, played the organ and helped with youth ministries while the family attended First United Methodist of Pine Mountain. Rollins passed away following an accident in 1996. She was just 42 years old. Her strong faith remains an anchor for the family. “I am learning a lot,” he said of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes. Lambert took RCIA classes with one of his daughters in New Orleans but didn’t complete the process. “I didn’t take the final exam,” he joked.

Lambert has been attending Mass at Christ the King Church  for “close to a year.” He attended Mass at other parishes in the past while in the military. Lambert credits the help of his sponsor Mary Elaine Thompson, a long-time parishioner at Christ the King Church, and parish RCIA instructor Neal Garn, who has been involved in faith formation at the parish for the past 15 years. “I give Neal a lot of credit,” said Lambert. Another reason Lambert listed why he is becoming a Catholic is simple, “I have always liked how the Masses end with the words ‘Go in peace,” he said.

Macon March for Life included Rosary, Mass and stories of regret, awareness

 

Macon, Ga. - The Macon March for Life, an annual affair that would normally bring hundreds together for a peaceful march in support of the Pro-Life movement, took place under somewhat differences circumstances Friday afternoon. The crowd was a bit smaller than it was last year before the coronavirus pandemic forever altered how we gather in public spaces but for all intents and purposes the event was a success for so many that attended. Supporters like Ann Marie Cosgrove, who came down from Minneapolis and her longtime friend Jody Duffy, who moved to Macon from Peachtree City, had a number of reasons to be in attendance that day. The pair are with the organization Silent No More, an abortion awareness campaign that would normally be in Washington, D.C. for the national Right to Life march which was cancelled this year due to coronavirus. Their perspective on abortion is similar to many others while also being unique. “I’m just here to give a presence,” said Cosgrove, 63, has no children and explained that she had an abortion when she was a young woman. “We need to be speaking out about what abortion did to us. The ripple effect from an abortion goes on forever. They don’t tell you that when you’re in there and you’re preparing to go through with it.” 

“We are here to promote healing,” said Duffy who went through with an abortion following a sexual assault while serving in the military decades ago. “It’s always important to me to attend a March for Life event. First of all to show my support for the unborn, them to let people know that men and women that have been involved in abortions have regrets and to hopefully discourage anyone from making that decision.” Cosgrove held a sign that read “I regret my abortion.” 

The march began with students from nearby Mt. De Sales Academy leading the way behind a blue  banner with The Kolbe Center logo, the center is located blocks from where the day began with a Rosary celebrated by Father John Wright, the Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph’s Church, Macon. That day’s Mass, also at St. Joseph’s, took place just before noon. Bishop of Savannah Stephen D. Parkes celebrated the Mass and during his homily he welcomed a substantial crowd to the parish. “We are gathered here today to honor life,” he said. “God gave us something so special, he gave us characteristics. All of the combinations of people, only God could have come up with all of those combinations.”

Parkes continued, “God has special plans for us.” He mentioned our thumbs and how no two thumb prints are alike on Earth as an example of the originality and value of one’s life. “God poured into us, we are made in his image and likeness.”

“As a people we are called to do everything we can to protect the dignity of human life.”

The march, which began in Rosa Parks Square, followed the Mass and was silent. Participants were instructed to not react to any comments that may come from passersby or to sing or chant themselves. The Mount de Sales Academy choir sang the National Anthem, and Parkes spoke to the crowd of parents, children, and others, prior to the march.

Escorted by a Bibb County Sheriff’s deputy in a marked vehicle, the procession made their way down First Street. The young and the old, students and teachers, the Bishop of Savannah and a pair of women from Minnesota and Georgia, with regrets and stories to continue to tell whomever will listen.

Rite of Election is a celebration of choices and the mysteries God has in store for all of us

 

MACON, GA.- Jason Ruiz, a parishioner at St. Anne Church, Columbus put his hands on the shoulders of his son Lewis, 14, and daughter Luann, 16, and bowed his head. The active duty United States Army soldier was inside St. Joseph Church, Macon as his kid’s godparent, along with their mom and the couple’s three younger children, who were also there in support. The Ruiz family came to support Luann and Lewis as they began their journeys as Catholics by celebrating the Rite to Election. Jason, their sponsor, was standing witness to his children. As Bishop Stephen D. Parkes asked the catechumens if they “wish to fully enter into the life of the church?,” everyone standing answered “We do,” including Jason, a longtime Catholic who was clearly caught up in the moment. “I think it’s what brings our family together and goes along with our tradition,” he said following Mass. “This is a big part of their lives and I hope it guides them on their journey.”

Father Emanuel Vasconcelos, OFM Conv. was also in attendance to support the Ruiz family. Vasconcoles is the Right of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Anne Church and helped instruct Lewis and Luann during the process. In his third year as an RCIA coordinator, Vasconcelos knows times are different but the mission and purpose of Rite of Election remains the same. “I think it’s important for us in the faith, those of us that have been practicing and may have been born Catholic, to encourage [them] and to see those called to the sacraments,” he said. “Even during a pandemic God is still using people to bring to the faith.”

The Rite to Election Mass for catechumens within the Columbus and Macon deaneries, which took place at St. Joseph Church Saturday, Feb. 20, was described by Father Scott Winchel, the pastor at St. Joseph, as “an opportunity for the church to welcome these individuals into her fold. It is a way on behalf of the church to invite them and embrace them on their journey toward the Lord and ultimately to eternal life.”

Following readings from the Books of Genesis (2: 7-9, 3: 1-7) andRomans (5:12, 17-19), during his homily Bishop Parkes spoke of mysteries and choices, the message mixed within the text of those scriptures that were read moments earlier. “With God there is mystery so there’s always a little of that unknown,” said Parkes. “In life there’s beautiful mysteries, something that we need to celebrate. We really can’t know everything so let's leave something for God. There’s mystery to how God invited you to this place, in the year of St. Joseph.”

Of the choice the catechumens were making on this day he said, “When asked why you’re becoming Catholic I hope you’ll be able to say ‘I’m becoming a Catholic because God has called me to be here’,” said Parkes to the catechumens towards the close of the celebration. ‘I’m becoming Catholic because there’s mystery in God’s plan.’”

Following the Bishop’s homily the seven catechumens, Lawrence Lambert, the Ruizs, Rivers Shackleford, Elizabeth and Lauren Tanner and Brooklyn Youngclaus, each made their way to the altar along with their godparents in order to sign the Book of Elect. Youngclaus, her black and white mask matching her sweater, smiled as she signed the book. Her smiling face reflected that of a child on Christmas day. 

Parkes held the book aloft after the seven new Catholics had signed their names to it. “The reason for us being here today is that God has elected you, God has chosen you to be a part of our family,” said Parkes afterward. “Today is a very important chapter in your life with God.”

Asked how he felt after the Mass, Lambert, who was making his first visit to St. Joseph Church, said of the experience, “It was beautiful and so spiritually assuring. It was a true blessing in my life.”

 

 

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