It was a bonus to come to a parish four years ago that did a year-round catechumenate. What’s that, you ask? Simply that we are focused on evangelization and welcoming twelve months a year. Not just in the Fall.
And when unbaptized inquirers are ready, we celebrate the Rite of Acceptance. It can happen at any time during the year, as it did at 8:30 Mass this morning. The pews empty somewhat so the newcomers are surrounded by their new community as they enter the church.
Left, our pastor Fr Jon Seda greets two new members of God’s household. They encounter the cross of Christ for the first time (ritually).
Below and right, our new members experience the Signing of the Senses.
It’s not every day a community will dedicate a church. The aim of preparation is participation: active, intelligent, and devout, (2003 ICEL: “conscious, devout, and active”) as the rite says:
20. In order that the people may take part fully in the rite of dedication, the rector of the church to be dedicated and others experienced in the pastoral ministry are to instruct them on the import of the celebration and its spiritual, ecclesial, and evangelizing power.
Accordingly, the people are to be instructed about the various parts of the church and their use, the rite of dedication, and the chief liturgical symbols employed in it. Thus led by suitable pastoral resources to a full understanding of the meaning of the dedication of a church through its rites and prayers, they will take an active, intelligent, and devout part in the sacred service.
When my current parish renovated in the nineties, a parishioner involved on the committee remarked how the clergy frequently referred to aspects of the new nave and narthex before the renovation was complete. The homily is obviously a key part of this catechesis. I’d say it’s also important to develop a deeper undertstanding on parish committees and sub-committees. I have very positive experiences when I served another renovating parish in 1995-96.
Let’s examine “Some responsibilities proper to the catechetical ministry,” specifically, an “Analysis of the situation and its needs.” This analysis is directed for dioceses and other “big” organizations, but a parish should probably be attuned to this:
279. The particular Church, in organizing its catechetical activity, must have as its point of departure an analysis of the situation. “The object of this investigation is multiple: included are examination of pastoral action and analysis of the religious situation as well as of the sociological, cultural, and economic conditions, to the extent that these facts of collective life can greatly influence the success of evangelization”. (General Catechetical Directory 100) This is nothing other than becoming aware of reality from the point of view of catechesis and its needs.
– there must be a clear awareness, in “examining pastoral action”, of the state of catechesis: how, in fact, it is situated in the process of evangelization; a distinct balance between the various catechetical sectors (children, adolescents, young people, adults); the co-ordination of catechesis with Christian education in the family, in schools and elsewhere; its internal quality; the contents imparted and the methodology used; the characteristics of catechists and their formation;
– an “analysis of the religious situation” of the Diocese includes three closely related levels: the sense of the sacred, that is those human experiences, which, because of their depth, tend to open to mystery; the religious sense, the concrete ways in which a particular people conceives of and communicates with God; and the situation of the faith, in the light of the various types of believer; in connection with these levels, it also investigates the moral situation as lived, inquiring into its emerging values and evident ambiguities or counter values.
– “socio-cultural analysis”, about which much has already been said in relation to the human sciences in the formation of catechists, (Cf. Part Five, chap. 5) is also necessary because catechumens and those being catechized must be prepared to constitute a Christian presence in society.
280. The analysis of the situation, from these various perspectives, “should also convince those who work in the ministry of the word that, so far as pastoral action is concerned, human situations are ambivalent. Therefore, workers in the service of the Gospel should learn to note the many possibilities that are opening up for their action in new and diverse circumstances… For always possible is a process of change which can make clear the way to the Faith”. (General Catechetical Directory; cf. Introductory explanation, 16)
This analysis is a primary working instrument, of an informational nature, offered by the catechetical service to pastors and catechists.
Our current weakness is in missing the evangelical connection–how Catholics reach out to the unchurched. And sorting out the authentic catechetical needs: inspiring first faith and engaging catechesis when the new/renewed believer is ready.
Consider those “three closely related levels,” the human encounter with the sacred, the concrete experience of religion, and the various expressions of faith. Morality is then linked with these, but these three “levels” give a context, and a hope for both evangelization as well as deepening the faith life later on.
about Todd Flowerday
A Roman Catholic lay person, married (since 1996), with one adopted child (since 2001). I serve in worship and spiritual life in a midwestern university parish.
Neil has been a blogging collaborator for the past several years on Catholic Sensibility. He brings his unique experiences from theology, spirituality, and the ecumenical sphere. Pay special attention to each one of his posts.