The extended family walks into church, with the beautiful baby, all dressed in christening finery. During Mass, the baby is welcomed, anointed, baptized and celebrated with applause – and the family basks in the glow of belonging to this faith community.
However, in too many instances, the newly baptized and their families seem to disappear until it is time to register for faith formation classes.
How can parishes keep connected to the people who celebrate these sacraments with such faith, hope and joy? How can we build on the relationships that were begun during the preparation sessions, whether through parent sessions with the pastor or the Baptism team. How do we continue to evangelize not only those initiated, but their families and the parish community at large?
At one parish, the pastor, the DRE, catechists for 2nd and 10th grades and the RCIA team put their heads together to do just that. High school students who were preparing for Confirmation designed and sent invitations to all the families who had a member baptized during the past year, whether baby, child, teen or adult, to join us for Mass and a reception on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. Seats were reserved at the 10:30 Mass for the honorees and their families, who were escorted to their places by some of the teens. During Mass, the pastor had a special blessing for all these families.
Children preparing for First Eucharist made personalized cards and decorated name plaques for each baptized child/adult being celebrated. The teens decorated the church hall, and with their parents or Confirmation sponsors, prepared the food and beverages for the reception. Letters were sent to the parents of the First Eucharist class, telling them about the project their children were working on, and asking them to join us on that day. The entire parish was invited to attend, and those who came really enjoyed connecting or reconnecting with the families.
Students in both groups discussed in their respective classes, the Sacraments of Initiation and how they are connected. Each student chose a family to pray for before the event and sent a follow up note a month later, letting the family know they were still praying for them. The thank you notes, and the increased participation by some of these families in the faith life of the parish, let the students and planning team know that they had made a difference.
It was a start…