After a gap of many years, with a new church building offering space that really cries out ‘you are welcome’, and a wise pastor, a parish in the Diocese is beginning the RCIA process afresh. They have gathered a group of 6 enthusiasts, men and women, different ages, as the ‘parish team’. We opened the formation session for the team with Bernadette Farrell’s ‘You have called us by our name’ and reflected on the words –
you have chosen us to be members of your family, by your love you have created us to live in unity… you will lead us to your light, walk before us through the night, you will guide us on our journey, you will keep our vision bright…. You will hold us when we fall, give new strength to hear your call, you will never be beyond us for your love is all in all… You will nourish, you will lead, giving every gift we need, for your reign will be established from the smallest of all seeds.
The team began nervously, with the usual questions: how will we know what to say? What if we dont know ‘the answers’? They found the hymn reassuring – its God’s work, trust God! They know that everything they offer is in the context of the parish community of faithful people. They have seven enquirers who will begin with them next week – again, a real mix of people, all ages. There are several parents from the school – their children made their first Holy Communion last term, and they were so touched by the journey they made with their children, that they now want to make that journey for themselves – a non-Catholic parent, an uncatechised baptised Catholic, a person with no faith background at all. The team discussed how they could meet these people where they are – and what times are going to be most suitable for them? Is it a twilight session after school, or a session after Mass on Sunday with another catechist doing a liturgy of the Word/stories/games with the children while the parents meet over coffee? This is going to be a time of listening and telling stories, responding to their initial questions, calming fears, exploring aspects of the faith, offering spiritual support, and introducing them more fully to the life of the community as they gather every Sunday. During this time of evangelisation, the Rite says ‘faithfully and constantly the living God is proclaimed and Jesus Christ whom he has sent for the salvation of all.’ How do we do this? When someone comes to your house to get to know you, what do you do?
Have a formation session to refresh your own parish team and stir up new life and hope.
Put out an invitation for enquirers to ‘come and see’ and have an open session with a glass of wine to tell people about it. Some will have been coming to Mass with their Catholic spouse for years, and have never been asked. Others are new to the area. Others are parents in the school.
One step at a time – do not worry about how it will go. Pray, Trust and Go for it being as open and welcoming as you possibly can!