WASHINGTON—During Lent candidates for the sacraments of initiation which include baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist, experience final preparation to become members of the Catholic Church.
The elect, as they are called, rely on the whole church to welcome them.
Father Richard Hilgartner, assistant director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a press release with 10 things Catholics can do to welcome new members.
1. Pray—Parishes post the names of those preparing for baptism and reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Parishioners can commit to pray for a particular member of the elect and let them know of this gift of prayer as they prepare for baptism.
2. Listen—The journey of those in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults can be an example for all, as the elect listen intently to the Word of God and take concrete steps to follow Him. Their steps can inspire, especially during Lent as Christians strive to follow the Lord more closely. Time spent hearing their stories can move listeners’ hearts.
3. Participate—The RCIA process includes a number of public rituals in Lent: the Rite of Election, the Scrutinies, and the Preparation Rites. Many of these take place at Sunday Masses. Attending those is a way to show support.
4. Attend the Easter Vigil—The Great Vigil of Easter is the night the church keeps vigil for the resurrection of Jesus, celebrates the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, and welcomes new members into the church.
This “most blessed of all nights,” as the Exsultet on Holy Saturday proclaims, celebrates in ancient rituals the central mysteries of the faith. This celebration is long, but it is the heart of the church’s worship and speaks clearly to fill participants with the joy of the resurrection.
5. Have a welcoming spirit—In the weeks after their initiation, the newly baptized, or neophytes, look for their place in the church community. Parishioners can make them feel welcome by encouraging them to be part of an activity, a group, or a ministry.
6. Witness—The RCIA reminds people that God is present and active, that He continues to speak to all. It is a reminder that how you act, what you say, and what you do can reflect the presence of Christ. Being witnesses of what Christ is doing in one’s life speaks to others.
7. Invite—As witnesses, Christians are called to share their faith in some way. Sometimes it means noticing others who are searching, who might benefit from encouragement or an invitation to learn more about the Catholic faith. Just inviting a friend or neighbor to Mass can be a powerful statement that allows the Lord to reach out through this gesture.
8. Get involved—The RCIA has many facets. Each depends on dedicated parishioners, clergy, catechists, and other staff members, to facilitate, teach, lead, and serve as sponsors. There are many ways to shares one’s faith and gifts to become involved.
9. Ongoing conversion—In addition to those preparing for baptism, the RCIA includes those already baptized Christians who are preparing for reception into full communion of the Catholic Church. This can be celebrated any time.
Those preparing for reception, and confirmation and first reception of the Eucharist, remind Christians that all are called to follow the Lord. He is always speaking and calling people to repentance, ongoing conversion and a change of heart, resulting in more authentic disciples.
10. Mystagogy is for all—After celebrating the sacraments, the newly initiated continue their formation in a period called Mystagogy, which means “interpretation of mystery,” where they reflect on their encounter with Christ in the sacraments and learn about their faith. All members of the church do this. We grow deeper in faith and relationship with Christ, constantly discerning his will.