During a recent trip, I looked up a parish close to my hotel and headed over there for the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass. Just before the opening song, a parishioner went to the ambo, welcomed everyone to St. So-and-So, and then read the parish mission statement.
The statement was kind of long, and I don’t remember all of it. I do remember that it included the word “welcome” and “welcoming community” several times. The reason I remember this is because no one in the church said a word to me (unless you count the communion minister’s “Body of Christ”).
On another occasion, I was visiting a parish that had their mission statement printed on the cover of the bulletin. It had a phrase that said something like: “At St. So-and-So, we foster spiritual growth through the celebration of life-giving liturgies.” On that day, Mass started late, no one but the cantor seemed interested in singing, the lector mumbled the reading, and the homily seemed like it had been downloaded from the Internet.
What does your RCIA team stand for?
I could go on, but you get the idea. The reason I tell you these stories is to spur us as RCIA teams to look at what it is we stand for. What is it we believe about what we do? What is it we say we do? And what is it we do do?
Your parish has a mission statement, and I’ll bet you don’t know what it says. And if you do know, I’ll bet most of your RCIA team doesn’t know. Yet this is the parish — and the mission — into which you are initiating new members.
Most parish mission statements are dreadful. If yours is typical, it was written a decade or more ago, under a pastor who is no longer your pastor, by a committee that no longer functions. However, while most parish mission statements are irrelevant, the mission of the parish is anything but. If we believe what we teach, the catechumens are called by the Holy Spirit into a mission. Our job as RCIA teams is to discern with them what that mission is and if our parish can help them live into that mission.
Live your mission
For that to happen, we have to know our own personal mission and the overall mission of our parish. What is written down in your parish mission statement is a start, but that is not where the mission is lived. The mission has to be rooted in your heart and lived out every day. The catechumens won’t learn about your parish mission by reading it on the bulletin cover. They will learn about it by seeing you enact it.
(For more on creating and communicating a mission statement, see this post: 6 essential rules for communicating a new RCIA vision.)