Each year, about 1,000 individuals become Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Mel Diamse-Lee finds out how some parishes integrate them into parish life and speaks with several new Catholics about their experiences.
|Church Of Divine Mercy|
Over the last three years, the parish has experimented with:
- Social nights – dinner with priests and sponsors at the church rooftop.
- A whole RCIA session where the various parish ministries talk about their mission and work.
- Attachment to the ministries during parish feast day.
- Occasional home-based RCIA sessions conducted by the sponsors. However, RCIA coordinator, Mr Mark Wong, said, “These put a strain on the sponsors and also the sponsors have to be willing and able to conduct the sessions. However, these home sessions really bind them into the community.”
Baptised in 2014
“More than a year before I was baptised, I joined the Children’s Liturgy (CL) Ministry. Unlike many, who serve in the ministry as a baptised Catholic, I must say that my situation is a little unique. I remember praying, telling God that I felt very ‘alone’ and I needed a community.
“Thereafter a series of events happened, which led me into the CL ministry. Being in the ministry gave me a sense of belonging
and a sense of purpose as a Christian.
“Besides serving in the ministry, the ladies in our group also meet regularly to pray, share about our trials and how God works in our life and to intercede for our children. This helps to strengthen my faith.”
Ms Faith Teo
Baptised in 2014 with younger siblings, Christopher and Noel
After their baptism, Ms Teo’s 17-year-old brother, Christopher, returned to be a sponsor in the RCIA and to help with administrative work. “Because he missed the first two months of the process, he wanted to know what had been happening during the period,” said Ms Teo.
A special education teacher, Ms Teo hopes to be involved should the parish establish a class for children with special needs.
On how she feels about belonging to a parish, she said she is not new to the Mass as her boyfriend is Catholic, adding, “Now that I’m baptised I am more comfortable [during Mass].”
|Church Of St Teresa|
- Introduce organisations and Neighbourhood Christian Communities to the newly baptised during Mystagogy and encouraging participation.
- Yearly invitation to neophytes to become “companions” rather than sponsors in the RCIA programme in the hope they will eventually help out as sponsors.
- Introduced neophytes this year to an “open” Small Christian Community in church to do the Seven-Step Gospel Sharing with other parishioners.
Baptised in 2014
“I am integrating well into the parish community. It has been easy for me as I have been attending church since my younger days, although I was baptised only recently. So I am pretty well accustomed to the Catholic traditions.
“I feel a sense of belonging to the community. I hope to be a part of the RCIA committee in the near future as I am interested in passing my knowledge and past experiences to the next batch of inquirers/catechumens.
“The parish community has done a good job in integrating neophytes. To further improve on this, I wish the community can include more activities with the RCIA inquirers.”
|Church Of The Holy Spirit|
- Informing catechuments of parish programmes and initiatives, and encouraging their involvement, such as regular canteen service and special liturgical celebrations.
- Collaboration with other ministries, such as carolling at homes of home-bound parishioners.
- Sponsors share their own involvement with ministries and the parish community, and facilitate catechumens’ participation where there is interest.
- Nearing Easter, ministries share about their mission and role in parish life.
- Linking neophytes with relevant Neighbourhood Christian Community [NCC] leaders so that they can experience community life within their own neighbourhoods and find support there for their discipleship journey;
- Piloted cell groups after the 2013-2014 journey. The cells met separately once a week to reflect and share on the Gospel of Luke and gathered together once a month for organised sessions conducted by priests of the parish. It was observed that the neophytes often struggled to commit time to attend the weekly meetings and cell group leaders required proper formation and training to ensure they were equipped to lead. The parish will continue to monitor the cell groups to ascertain the sustainability of this initiative.
Baptised in 2013
“I was integrated into the parish very quickly and naturally. The moment I started my RCIA journey as an inquirer, I immediately felt part of the community.
“I quickly felt comfortable and it was special to be part of a new group of people who shared personal experiences, thoughts and doubts with me and with whom I could do the same. I have since joined the RCIA as a sponsor.
“Being part of the parish community and the RCIA ministry strengthens my faith, my hope and trust in God. Also, it’s a great feeling to contribute, albeit in a small way, to building the Church and help create the environment in which other people can learn more about the faith and hopefully encounter Jesus.”
Mr George Chua, wife Darrell and daughter Hanna
Baptised in 2014
Mr Chua and his wife are involved in the parish’s Family Life Ministry (FLM), which comprises a group of families meeting once a fortnight to share experiences and give support to one another. Being in the ministry, said Darrell, “allowed us to see how Catholic families live their lives”.
Mr Chua, who is also a sponsor in RCIA, added: “RCIA gave us head and heart knowledge but it is the FLM that gave us the opportunity to practise that knowledge and get to know other families.” One sign that the family integrated early was their eagerness to go to church on weekends, even before their baptism.
“Church life is very much a part of our life now,” said Mr Chua, “It is a platform for me to become a better Christian and a Christ-centred person. It is in a community like this that you learn to give and take, to be gracious.”
|Church Of St Ignatius|
Said Mr Matthew Raj, assistant coordinator of RCIA: “We offer ministries that are service-related, impart biblical knowledge and are prayer-centred. We brief them on what the ministries are about or invite the leaders of the ministries to speak to the group during the period of Mystagogy.” Other integration activities:
- Neophytes are invited to attend parish events to get them acquainted with the life of the community.
- Get-togethers with former RCIA participants, such as potluck gatherings and group outings (pilgrimage to Malacca).
- Those who have shown to be good facilitators and evangelisers are taken under the wings of the RCIA team for further exposure.
- Invitation to help out during RCIA canteen duty to raise funds for the needy.
- Attachment to Neighbourhood/Small Christian Communities, where they are invited to attend monthly gatherings.
Ms Marina Tan
Baptised in 2013
“During my RCIA journey, the facilitators and my sponsor extended their loving kindness and compassion to me despite my incessant questioning, which at times were challenging.
“As a neophyte, I found myself having even more questions,” she said. “However the priests always found time personally or through messages to counsel and support me in times of trouble and confusion.
“The ongoing support of the RCIA committee and community was instrumental in deepening my faith... Joining the RCIA ministry has given me an opportunity to expand my relationships within the parish and encourage inquirers and catechists as they continue their own new journey of faith.
“Being part of the “Grateful Hearts” and NCC group's Whatsapp prayer group that my RCIA cohorts set up allows me to be part of the parish community when I am out of the country for extended periods of time for work.”
Mr Matthew Khoo
Baptised in 2012
Since his baptism, Mr Khoo has been assisting his wife with infant baptisms, from doing the administrative work to ushering parents and relatives to their seats, arranging chairs or doing up the names of participants.
“I enjoy being involved because it is a service to God and to the church,” said Mr Khoo. “Going for weekly Mass and having the children attend catechism lessons already give me a sense of belonging. The service is rendered because the church needs it. I feel privileged and honoured.”
|Church Of The Immaculate Heart Of Mary|
- During Mystagogy, a few ministries are invited to introduce themselves and the work they do and neophytes are encouraged to join them
- Encourage neophytes to journey for another year with the new RCIA team and if they are interested, will be invited to join the pool of experienced sponsors for the next journey.
- Assign neophytes to offer the bread and wine during Mass for the first two months after baptism so parishioners get to see them.
Ms Alena Chong
Baptised in 2012
“I am currently serving in the RCIA as well as Our Lady of Sorrows, which is the ministry that prays for the deceased during a wake.
“The RCIA committee incorporated activities, such as canteen day, for us to serve and get to know the parishioners better while our sponsors introduced us to other parishioners.
“As a new convert, it is very important for me to feel comfortable and welcomed in a parish community... The decision to join and serve in a community has helped me to grow because in this community I can get support, advice and guidance to grow spiritually.
“Many times when I was lost, I knew I could always turn to the community.”
Mr Jimmy Lin
Baptised in 2012
“After my baptism, I stayed in the RCIA as a neophyte and helper. A year later, I became a sponsor and have been serving in that capacity up to today. I also attended Bible classes hoping to increase my knowledge about the faith and get to know more parishioners.”
Mr Lin shared that “in RCIA, I’m tasked to be a social event captain, organising activities such as visits to the major seminary and conducting ice breaking games during the retreat for catechumens."
He added, “There is joy, love, frustration and trials in the community but we encourage each other to continue serving and this has helped me to persevere and find joy, love and hope in life as well.”
|Church Of Our Lady Queen Of Peace|
- Representatives of church organisations are invited to introduce their ministries to the catechumens.
- Invite neophytes to assist in RCIA as sponsors or facilitators.
- Invite neophytes to church events, such as parish feast day and parish retreats.
- Occasional invitations to special events, such as RCIA Christmas party.
Mr Jamie Ng and wife, Doreen Grace Yeo
Baptised in 2014 with children
“RCIA has played a huge role in our integration process. When we were catechumens, we were gradually introduced to, besides the teachings and beliefs, the Catholic way of life and way of being,” said Mrs Ng.
Added Mr Ng, “Members of the RCIA committee as well as our own sponsors are also very warm and they always made the effort to introduce us to other parishioners, even those who are not from RCIA. Through our godparents [also in RCIA committee] we see the joy and commitment in serving the church.”
“It is a huge blessing to be part of a small but warm, loving and close-knit parish like Our Lady Queen of Peace,” Mrs Ng revealed. “We feel belonged here.”
|St Joseph Church (Bukit Timah)|
Mr John Tan and wife, Claudia
Baptised in 2012 with children Ashley and Raphael
“I would say that our integration into parish life happened quite naturally,” said Mr Tan. It started with the RCIA committee and sponsors’ welcoming and sincere attitude in wanting to find out more about us. There was already a genuine effort to establish deep friendships early on in the programme. From there, we were introduced to other equally welcoming members of the parish, which really helped us to ‘fit in’ as we continued to make more friends.
He added, “Our parish community is like a ‘kampung’ or small village where we feel it is like our second home. The people are warm and friendly and will acknowledge one another with a greeting or smile even if they don’t know the person well.”