We all need a holiday or a break from our usual routine. Anyone with a lay ministry knows this is very true. I was

Eucharistic Congress. Bishops at Croke Park

fortunate to be able to take a long weekend and join in the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. I went on my own and deliberately ticked the box that said I did not want my local diocese to be told. I was going to have some ‘me’ time and get away from everything in England.

This was my first time for such an event, and as I stepped over the threshold into the huge hall, my first glance was of people who  seemed to know what they were doing, engaged in tasks or purposefully moving onto the next one which was huge. Before I could think ‘where do I go’, I heard my name and there was my Bishop greeting me, as surprised to see me as I was to see him. In a moment I recalled that I was part of this people, this universal catholic church, and it was a very uplifting feeling.

Over the next few days the refrain of the Congress hymn:  ‘Though we are many, we are one body who come to share this living bread’ was often on my lips as I journeyed with several thousand other pilgrims, through liturgies of reconciliation and healing and hope for the future.  

I enjoyed the times when I was alone, free to talk to strangers if I wanted, or sit quietly, and equally I loved the surprise of walking round a corner and suddenly meeting someone I wasn’t expecting to see. I even managed to meet up with some friends after the mass with 75,000 people in Croke Park, when we didn’t have mobile phone contact or know where we were sitting. Who do our new catholics continue to see when the parish takes its summer break: which often means the cessation of activities? Or have they already started to feel alone as the initial mystogogy period ended at Pentecost. If so, they are already on the path to being one of the early fallers from the catholic church.

It is a little like when thoughts of the honeymoon recede and the newly married couple are expected to get on with their life. Just so in the church, there are challenges, questions and a need for a time for readjustment, as new ideas and feelings are assimilated.

Since the distinctive spirit and power of the period of postbaptismal catechesis or mystagogy derive from the new, personal experience of the sacraments and the community’… RCIA 237

  • RCIA 240-241 offer an easy way to structure ongoing support for your new catholics, by building up to that anniversary mass.
  • This is a time for the neophytes to show co-responsibility with the community, and in working for the good of others.
  • Perhaps use the summer break to encourage or introduce them to something different. Asking someone to ‘help out’ for a few weeks, means they shouldn’t feel pressured into long term commitment.
  • Mini retreats, parish walks perhaps to an historic church or just locally to the pub.
  • If there is a ‘big event’ take them along, whether or not it is church based.
  • Scripture groups that get together to read and reflect on the Sunday scripture.

All of the above need a little preparation, but do not require the attendance of the RCIA team, so the team can get a break while the rest of the community assist. Prepare ahead a commentary on the scriptures.

I am involved in LIFT (living in faith together) where a group meets for a meal. The host provides the space and somewhere to eat. Everyone else brings a plate of food, or drink to share (so easing the burden on the host). It works well for BBQ’s, picnics, or inside. Six to eight is a nice number, but we’ve had 14 and it worked. Just start with a prayer, and a reading from the Sunday scriptures, with time for reflection. You will find the conversation that follows throughout the evening is exhilarating. It would work for catechumens as well, or even enquirers.

RCIA doesn’t have to shut down for the summer. Have Fun and be joyful.