There are very obvious links in several aspects of Catholic life in the Diocese.
The first is with our Catholic Schools. In 21st C Britain, the schools can often be the first place where a family experience Catholic life. The welcome extended in school can be the bridge for families on the edge, unsure of how to get to know more about their faith. Here they are encouraged, and may begin to practice as a family, learning to pass on faith to their children – and in fact, to receive faith from their children too! There is an opportunity here for further development of home/school/parish links, and finding new ways of supporting families, and working in partnership with parents in preparation of their children for first sacraments.
RCIA and Welcome
The second link is through initiation of adults, and children of catechetical age. The Project worker is also part of the RCIA Working Group in the Diocese, and offers some workshops with the RCIA Co-ordinator, linking Initiation of adults and Welcome. This approach has emphasised the responsibility of the whole parish community in welcoming and initiating new members – ‘like a mother’ the community reaches out to those who stand on the threshold. Both the ‘Welcome Project’ and the RCIA recognise that the quality of the welcome, and the sensitivity with which people’s needs are met, is pathway along which people begin to recognise God with them. The community accompany enquirers every step of the way, listening to their questions, and sharing the Christian response to life with them. The community gives evidence of being people who welcome enquirers into their homes and in community gatherings, and help them to find themselves ‘at home’. As the community welcomes new members, its own conversion is renewed. On reflection, workshop attendees recognise that the hospitality envisaged in the scriptures is powerful in practice – people find themselves welcoming Christ.
In the Rite of Acceptance we pray for those who come:
These catechumens, who are our brothers and sisters have already travelled a long road. We rejoice with them in the gentle guidance of God who has brought them to this day….
Both the ‘Everybody’s Welcome’ Project and RCIA process cause communities to reflect on the quality of their discipleship, and therein lies the potential to be transformed. However, resistance is also possible – where communities do not want to be open and welcoming, or are frightened of change or of doing things differently. In these situations, a potentially life-changing process may be jettisoned in favour of a risk-free programme for converts. The Everybody’s Welcome project is encouraging communities to consider what it means to be a Christian, and that together, somehow, in their living with others who share that personal faith in Christ, they are being and becoming a ‘real presence’ for people in a world where there is a great deal of loneliness and lack of belonging.
There will be a day’s workshop on The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults on Saturday 17th October, 2009 in English Martyrs, York. Fliers will be distributed to parishes in July.
Adult Formation Contacts and Catechists
It is often the Adult Formation Contacts and the Catechists who are taking the initiative when it comes to the Celebrating Family Project. These people are making connections between their work in parishes, in every type of ministry and catechetical process, and the vision and aims of the project in creating welcoming, sensitive, family friendly parishes. There are links with preparation for first sacraments and how we work with parents, and there are links with development of faith through short courses on scripture and the traditions of our faith. For example, the Project Worker and Adult Formation Adviser are working together on workshops for welcome of families through experience of Liturgy of the Word with Children, as well as training people to listen effectively, a key skill for welcoming ministry.
Workshop for Children’s Liturgy Leaders and teams on Saturday 26 September in the Middlesbrough area. (Details from Caroline)
Link with Bishop’s Council for Liturgy and Liturgical Formation
In the feedback from ‘Welcome’ workshops, many people have spoken of the experience of good liturgy as key to people feeling comfortable, and having a sense of being part of the community. This is true particularly for people coming to Church for the first time – the way in which the liturgy is celebrated can be a channel of graced hospitality enabling people to ‘find their place’ in a community.
Network for Family Life Ministry
The Project Worker is beginning to develop a network of people in the diocese (ideally 2 per parish) who have a particular concern for family life issues, from cradle to grave. They will be instrumental in identifying issues and events at grass roots, inviting diocesan or other personnel to support pastoral and formation needs.
Areas for continuing development:
- Parenting programmes (school and parish based)
- Working with parents of children coming for first sacraments
- Working with young people in the parish
- Training Leaders of Liturgy of the Word with Children
- What’s Life like for older people? Liaison/work with ASCENT
- Marriage Preparation: identifying good practice already happening, and offering training for leaders in areas where there is need.
Please get in touch with your Parish Priest if you are interested in being a link person.