LITURGY MATTERS: An initiating parish

Today’s Liturgy Matters continues to focus on RCIA ahead of our day with Team RCIA on October 19. Last week our focus was mission. This week we ponder initiation.  Mission and Initiation are two sides of the same coin. Both are our core business and involve everyone.

Language is fascinating and revealing. What does it mean to say, ‘We are an initiating parish’ as opposed to saying something like, ‘Our parish sponsors or hosts RCIA and Sacramental Preparation’? Talking about ‘an initiating parish’ has the potential to turn our vision and processes upside down!

An initiating parish knows in its bones that initiation is about only one thing – conversion to Christ. It knows therefore that initiation is a gradual process; that it takes time because it unfolds according to the promptings of the Holy Spirit; that every person’s journey is unique; that it is initiation into a way of life that is lived more and more deeply in the light of the Paschal Mystery – the living, dying, rising mystery of Christ. 

An initiating parish has an ‘initiating heart’ in the same way as it has a ‘missionary heart’. In an initiating parish, the whole community has the privilege of participating in the ministry of initiation. In an initiating parish, the RCIA Team and the Sacramental Team facilitate the involvement of everyone in the process of initiation. These teams co-ordinate rather than do. To coin a popular saying, ‘It takes a whole parish to initiate a new disciple’.  

When the whole parish is involved in the mission of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love by their way of life, parishioners will be inviting people ‘home’ to the parish at any and every time of the year.    

Therefore a parish community with an ‘initiating heart’ is always open, welcoming, engaging, talkative, sharing. An initiating parish reveals and shares it’s equally missionary heart with those who have been brought ‘home’ to the parish to explore their desire for something more. Through personal encounter, all members of an initiating parish accompany these new friends as they come to know and love Jesus, and begin to experience conversion of heart and a consequent desire to become missionary disciples.

The parish community becomes the school of desire: desire for Christ and for conversion of heart as they open themselves to the love of God. Catechesis is focused on the mystery of Christ as it is celebrated in the liturgy and lived by the parish community. 

In an initiating parish, initiation is never private or carried out apart from the community. Initiation and conversion take place at the heart of parish life and liturgy. Together we accompany those seeking Jesus, initiating them into our Catholic way of life: of prayer, of worship, of listening to the word of God and discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit, of knowing and loving the God of Jesus Christ, of living in our world and responding to the issues and questions that confront our society. 

In an initiating parish, initiation is equally about the ongoing conversion of parishioners, as together we reflect on the meaning of our own baptism and how we support each other in living as missionary disciples every day. Christian Initiation is about the universal call to holiness: to living life through, with and in the unity of God – Father, Son and Spirit. Conversion to Christ is a lifelong journey.

‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations; baptise them… teach them… and know that I am with you always.’ (Mt 28: 19) At the heart of parish life is mission and initiation. Two dimensions of the one dynamic whole. We are all called to full, conscious and active participation in both.

Whether your parish is looking to fan the existing flame of RCIA or to ignite the spark of RCIA, forming an ‘initiating heart’ in the whole parish is critical.

Again we all have wisdom to share. I invite you to consider this in your community and be open to sharing the fruit of your reflection when opportunities to gather present themselves, especially on October 19.  

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Co-ordinator of Liturgy.