WITH THE RESUMPTION of public Masses at the beginning of June, parishes have arranged the Sacraments of Initiation for neophytes. While the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has seen restrictions in the number of people attending Church services, the formation of new members is still a long journey. From the moment of their baptism, those being welcomed to the Christian family are in need of accompaniment.
In view of hygiene and social distancing constraints, parishes have adjusted the formation arrangements for the Period of Mystagogy. To welcome the newly baptised, the diocese is also organising a Mass on the Vigil of the Solemnity of Christ the King in November.
The pandemic has brought various challenges to the formation of the new faithful this year.
A survey carried out by the Diocesan Commission for Ongoing Formation of the Laity in 2014 found that only 40 per cent of new Catholics attended Sunday Mass. Six years on and the trend may have changed. However, the transition from online Mass to normal liturgy and community life for the new faithful is still hindered by the pandemic. Parishes need to make use of new ways to help them to actively participate in the Period of Mystagogy.
The section on formation during the Period of Mystagogy in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults: Introduction points out, “Just as their new participation in the sacraments enlightens the neophytes’ understanding of the scriptures, so too it increases their contact with the rest of the faithful and has an impact on the experience of the community. As a result, interaction between the neophytes and the faithful is made easier and more beneficial” (246).
Those new in the faith need to deepen their faith experience in community. Therefore, if parish associations and faith groups can embrace them, this can help to sustain their enthusiasm as well as bring new dynamism to the groups.
Bible study and prayer life are less affected by the pandemic. Parishes can further develop relevant online formation. With the younger generation are more actively engaged in online learning, good social media and formation platforms can be set up and quality content uploaded, to engage the new faithful.
For a balanced growth in faith, active participation in liturgy is necessary, Church organisations have, in recent years, put much emphasis on the liturgical aspect of formation to deepen love for Holy Communion. In view of social unrest amid the pandemic, liturgical and spiritual activities can help bring peace to the heart and strengthen community cohesion.
Godparents also play an important role, especially when regular Mass attendance becomes a challenge. They must walk journey with the new faithful as they grow in their spiritual life.
The Church can also encourage the newly baptised to be companions with the incoming group of catechumens. By sharing their own experience, they can help them to grow in faith.
Let us continue to pray for the new faithful. May the Holy Spirit sustain the fire of faith in them and all of us. May they continue to feel the joy of baptism when they celebrate the anniversaries of their baptism in future. SE