Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2000
Priest pushes parish evangelization
RCIA leaders hear call to build welcoming communities
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Everyone in a parish is responsible for its evangelizing environment. That means not coming late for Mass or leaving early. That means not ignoring the collection basket when it comes around.
That means not only welcoming each other but also fellow parishioners. That means not cussing at other drivers in the crowded parking lot after Mass.
"If a person (who is not Catholic) doesn't do these things, how would they be thinking about it?" asked Father Michael Koch. "They're asking themselves, 'Do I want to be part of this? Why do I want to be part of a parish with all these defects?'
"Look at your parish, evaluate your parish. Ask yourselves if you do these kinds of things. These are the responsibilities of the whole parish, the baptized."
Koch was the speaker for the 10th annual Western Catechumenate Conference at the Grey Nuns Regional Centre June 2 to 4. About 50 people representing parishes from Saskatchewan to British Columbia attended.
The conference helps to define the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), including those of the facilitators, priests, catechists and sponsors.
"Everyone should be a model of what they want to see in their parish," said Koch, who is based in Saskatoon. "We need to be an evangelizing community."
Koch admits the Catholic Church has fallen behind in evangelization, particularly when it comes to hospitality.
"We've been taught all the seven sacraments, but we haven't been evangelized," Koch said. "I went to an evangelical church and they fall all over you. There are 25 people at the door saying 'hello.'
"They'll ask if you're new . . . you have to go through 25 people to get into the church. They welcome you.
"Hospitality, that's one of the greatest Christian virtues. Don't assign five people to hospitality, everyone is responsible."
Part of that evangelization, said Koch, is to invite people to Mass, make them feel welcome at the parish and if they inquire, introduce them to the RCIA.
"This is where everyone comes in. Everyone needs to be on the lookout for people who are interested (in the church). What would happen in a parish if everyone did that? We would have a lot of people (in RCIA)."
Not only does a parish need to be responsible for evangelizing and hospitality in its environment but it should also maintain an effective RCIA.
Koch, a founding member of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate in Washington, D.C. in 1982, said one of the strengths of a parish is its RCIA because it involves a wide variety of ministries from the priest to the choir.
Koch is considered one of the leaders of RCIA in Western Canada. He is the author of four books on the catechumenate.
He said the RCIA team, which he refers to as the core Christian community, should not take ownership of the catechumens and candidates.
"The team will say 'On behalf of the team, we welcome you.' That's not right. It's on behalf of the Church. Any of those rites, it's on behalf of the parish, not the (RCIA) team."
It is also important to make the RCIA ongoing, said Koch.
"When someone comes to your door in need and wants to join the RCIA, you don't tell them to come back in September for (RCIA). Make it ongoing, serve the needs of the people, make it available all the time."
RCIA is also an effective way of evangelization, when new Catholics are discovering their faith.
"(RCIA) is designed so that the community hands on the tradition (of faith)," Koch said. "It's not just a matter of going to classes and learning things. They come in and they start living the way (parishioners) do. They learn as an apprentice does."
Koch added other key points in running an effective RCIA are to adapt it to the parish's specific needs, discourage spouses from being sponsors, include as many parishioners as possible and encourage younger parishioners to get involved particularly as sponsors.
"What I've tried to do in our parish is get teachers as sponsors," Koch said. "So they can get excited about it and go back and talk to their students about it."