One of the complaints I sometimes hear from catechumenate teams is that the parish isn’t really the full expression of church that the catechumens-now-neophytes might have come to expect. It is one thing to catechize them fully and correctly about how word, worship, community, and service are fully realized in the Body of Christ as it gathers around the Table of the Lord. It is another thing to shove the new Christians out of the small-group nest and into the less-than-perfect, not-quite-open arms of our fellow parishioners.
The disconnect is not difficult for catechumenate team members to spot. We, for the most part, have taken seriously the church’s mandate for ongoing, lifelong faith formation. Sometimes our fellow parishioners and sometimes even parish staff members haven’t quite embraced that vision of church.
A vision of parish
What if you could get the whole parish to engage in the kind of ongoing faith formation that we shape the catechumens in? What if the entire parish were undergoing a lifelong conversion process that led to a full implementation of the ministries of word, worship, community, and service? What if our parishes were so committed to growing in faith that the neophytes could leave the catechumenate thinking, “This is exactly what I signed up for!”?
Well, I can’t promise that’s going to happen in your parish, but I can tell you the way to get there. Or rather, Bill Huebsch can. He’s written a book called Dreams and Visions: Pastoral Planning for Lifelong Faith Formation. The book is deceptively simple. It provides a blueprint for how to move from zero to a fully realized parish, actively involved in lifelong formation. Bill’s blueprint is ten easy-to-understand steps. Easy to understand, but perhaps not so easy to commit to. The first one is the doozy:
1. Decide to do this and commit yourself to the vision.
The pastor, senior staff members, and key volunteers have to be on board. Once that’s accomplished, the rest is going to be a piece of cake by comparison. Fortunately, Bill’s book provides lots of support, suggestions, ideas, and even meeting agendas. And he has an even deeper level of support on his Web site, PastoralPlanning.com.
If you want to hand off the neophytes to a parish that can help them continue to grow in their new faith, you have to check out these resources.