Welcoming and Supporting the Newly Initiated

The heady days of the Easter season are particularly significant for people newly initiated into the Church.

It can be tempting both for RCIA participants and team members, as well as for those watching from the pews, to view the Easter Vigil as kind of a finish line for those seeking entry into the Church. After months of prayer and preparation, program members have received their sacraments and are now Catholics.

In reality, however, the Vigil is a starting point. The newly baptized—the neophytes—now enter into what is known as the period of mystagogy, from the Greek word mystagogia, which translates to instruction in the mysteries, or sacraments. This final stage of the RCIA process, which usually lasts in a structured way until Pentecost, is the time for the newest members of the Church to deepen their experience of the sacramental life they have been called to live, developing a better understanding of the rhythm of life as a Catholic. Like the apostles who, in the days leading up to Pentecost, grew into their role as witnesses to the risen Christ, the neophytes now have a chance to see their faith blossom.

During the period of mystagogy, the entire parish can play an active role in offering welcome and support. A simple hello after Mass or an expression of congratulations can go a long way to demonstrate hospitality and create a sense of community. Godparents and sponsors are particularly crucial now, checking to see how the new members are settling in and making themselves available to answer questions or lend support. It is especially useful during this period to provide an opportunity for the RCIA group to gather members together to talk about their experiences of initiation.

Some parishes hold a party for the neophytes as a way for the entire congregation to celebrate together. Witnessing those in the RCIA program freely choose to enter the Church at a time when so much of society rejects organized religion can serve as a powerful faith refresher for all cradle Catholics, and particularly for those in a spiritual rut. Celebrating with the neophytes helps us understand Christ’s words to the disciples locked away in the upper room: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

—Catherine Mulroney

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