Imagine this. Someone who is lonely or anxious or victimized or broken has come to the end of her rope. She is exhausted and disheartened. She has no idea what to do next.
She doesn’t like going out at this time of year, because everyone is full of “holiday spirit.” The stores are filled with Christmas songs and decorations. At work, everyone is asking each other about Thanksgiving plans and wishing everyone Merry Christmas. Our friend—let’s call her Maggie—stays home as much as possible, wasting time on the Internet. Then she comes across a news story about Pope Francis. She doesn’t read the story, but she looks at the pictures. He seems so happy. He is hugging people. He is laughing.
Where can seekers find someone like the pope?
She knows it’s crazy, but she thinks if she could get a hug from Pope Francis, she would feel a little better and have a little more hope. She knows she will never meet the pope, but what if she could find people who were like the pope? What if she went to a church? Would she find people like the pope in a church?
Is your RCIA team preparing the parish for seekers?
Here’s the thing. Maggie is coming to your parish this Christmas season. We get Maggies all year round, but especially at this time of year. Visitors who come to our parishes during the Christmas season are often seeking a connection. They are looking for something. It might be healing or friendship or purpose or just a hug. Is your parish ready for Maggie?
People often ask us how to get the parish more involved in RCIA. Here is a perfect opportunity. Start preparing parishioners to welcome Maggie this Christmas season.
Pray for vision
The first step is prayer. Invite all the parishioners to start praying for the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and hearts to visitors. Ask especially the greeters, ushers, and Communion ministers. The greeters and ushers are obvious, but why the Communion ministers? They are ministers of the Body and Blood of Christ. Christ is present in the consecrated bread and wine, but that is not the limit of his presence. Ask the Communion ministers to also be bearers of Christ to the Maggies who come to visit us.
Train your RCIA team and other parish leaders
Next, start training your RCIA team. This season, their number one job is to welcome Maggie. These are the steps for doing that:
- Look for strangers at Mass every Sunday
- Shake hands with and meet the stranger
- Introduce the stranger to at least one other parishioner
- Invite the stranger to an upcoming parish event
You can also train the parish staff and the parish council to do the same thing.
Sing like you mean it
Don’t forget the musicians. Advent and Christmas are the seasons when the musicians shine. Often, people will join the choir just for this season. However, new choir members, new music, and hectic holiday schedules sometimes cause the musicians to be stressed. And often it shows on their faces.
Ask the musicians to pray for the Spirit to open their eyes and hearts to visitors, just as you have with all the parishioners. And also ask them to pray about their music. Ask them to align their bodies and their faces with the words they are singing. Ask them to smile a lot. In other words, ask them look like the pope.
Who else can help welcome seekers?
You can probably think of more parish groups to reach out to. Brainstorm with your team about how to train the lectors, the youth group, the Knights, the school families, the first Communion families, and the Cursillo couples to welcome visitors.
Maggie is coming to your parish this Christmas. Will your community be ready? Please share your thoughts about how you will prepare your parish to welcome Maggie.
Check out this webinar recording: “How to find more RCIA inquirers” Click here for more information.
See also these related articles:
- Is your RCIA team ready for seekers this Christmas?
- Sing these 6 carols in RCIA for strong holiday catechesis
- 5 ways to lead your RCIA participants from the North Pole to Jesus Christ this Christmas
- Simbang Gabi: How to put stars in the eyes of your RCIA participants this Advent
- Be a dreamer this Advent
“Cyndy Sims Parr” by carol and SPQR| Flickr