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Making New Catholics Welcome
MAKING NEW CATHOLICS WELCOME
Many parishes will have initiated new members into the Church at the Easter ceremonies. What happens to them now?
This post-Easter period of the RCIA journey is known as the ‘Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis’ or ‘Mystagogia’.
The following quote from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults suggests several ways in which new members of the Church can be more closely incorporated into parish life during this period:
This is a time for the community and the neophytes* together to grow in deepening their grasp of the paschal mystery and in making it part of their lives through mediation on the Gospel, sharing in the eucharist, and doing the works of charity.
(*The term ‘neophytes’ is the title used to refer to the newly initiated during the Easter Season.)
I will look at how parishes can make their new members feel welcome and included through the celebration of the liturgy.
The key is clearly the Sunday Masses of the Season of Easter. Every effort should be made to have the neophytes and newly received present each week, preferably as a group but at different Mass times, so that during the season every member of the parish community has contact with its new members on as many occasions as possible.
By now, the newly initiated will be more at home in the liturgy and more comfortable with being the centre of attention, so it should not be difficult to arrange for them to sit in the front rows of the church with their godparents, families and other supporters during the Sundays of Easter.
The newly initiated should be intentionally included in the homily and the General Intercessions, not just for a week or two after the Easter Vigil, but on each of the seven Sundays following, up to and including Pentecost.
These new members of the parish can begin to take on some roles in the liturgy according to their charisms, such as bringing up the bread and wine in the procession of gifts, or reading the petitions during the Prayer of the Faithful.
Some of the newly initiated could be invited to offer a brief reflection on the journey of faith that they have been travelling. These could be delivered personally after communion at Mass (after the text has been checked with the Team leader and/or PP!) or printed in the parish bulletin.
The parish’s celebration of the Pentecost Vigil can be fruitfully used to help its new and not-so-new members recall the joyful Easter Vigil celebration that was held seven week earlier. The Sacramentary provides special texts for the Vigil, several readings from which to choose, and a solemn blessing. This is a time to use again the symbols of fire and to have a blessing and sprinkling of holy water.
If the bishop visits the parish for the confirmation of children during the Easter Season, as is often the case, the bishop should be invited to preside at a celebration of the Eucharist with the neophytes and be personally introduced to them.
In a sense, Christians spend their entire lives in mystagogy as they reflect on what it means to live in Christ. Let us pray for the neophytes, and for ourselves, that we may come to see Christ more clearly, to follow him more nearly and love him more dearly day by day during this season of Easter.