Sacraments & More
Preparation for and the celebration of Sacraments are core to our parish life. It is essential to see these, not as isolated events, but as central to the life of our Church family and opportunities for renewal, growth and development for all involved, not least the whole parish community.
The Department for Adult Formation and Evangelisation has clear Diocesan Guidelines to support sacramental preparation providing a wealth of information and help. We also offer in this section some ideas for taking ‘next steps’ beyond the initial planning of the one-off celebration.
Planning and preparing for these celebrations takes time and commitment from catechists and volunteers. The fruits of a well-delivered programme and wider plan will have ripples beyond what we can see or know. Planning the programme and considering ‘what comes next’ go hand in hand. The celebration of the Sacrament is not an end in itself and taking the time to plan well both for the event and beyond is vital. Building relationships is an essential part of this process as well as the delivery of good quality ‘programmes’ or catechesis which enable people to enter into the Sacrament effectively.
A young person's faith journey
At Baptism, the baby is assured, ‘The Christian community welcomes you with great joy’. This is the beginning of a young person’s faith journey and the community must consider how to continue to welcome this child and make concrete their promise of support.
Helping young parents, especially post Baptism and pre-school, is part of this ongoing endeavour. Parishes might consider setting up a small post-Baptism team to keep in touch with young parents;to provide materials to help parents both speak about faith and pray with their children; and to support faith-based parent and toddler groups. The Guidelines for Infant Baptism include a section giving examples of good practice in the areas of welcome, preparation, celebration and post Baptism support.
Starting school provides another special moment to welcome children and their families into the parish as well as into the school. This may be as simple as a card from the parish including a personal invitation to Children’s Liturgy. Sometimes a parishioner is appointed as a link person with the primary school and can work creatively on home-school-parish links. The Diocesan Education Department provides monthly resources for schools around a yearly theme – for 2017/18, the theme is ‘The Year of Mary’. Each month there is a suggested activity for families and parishes. Diocesan Education Department: The Year of Mary
In Year 4, the Reconciliation and First Holy Communion Guidelines recognise the importance of engaging candidates and their families in the life and mission of the parish community ‘providing family friendly opportunities for them to participate in all aspects of parish life not connected to school.’ This is another opportunity for parishioners to get to know the children and their parents. Recognising the value of peer ministry, Confirmation candidates can be involved in the First Holy Communion preparation programme revisiting and sharing their own experience.
As the child grows into adulthood, the processof growing in faith will later include preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation but will need many other stepping stones and opportunities along the way through our ministry to children and young people.
For the sake of our children and young people – be ready, be prepared and plan the next step in order to invite them to journey further.
When planning the Sacramental preparation programme, remembering the different stages will ensure the best experience and opportunity. Supporting young people at different stages of their faith journey is a privilege. It requires commitment from willing volunteers and cannot be underestimated.
The word catechist comes from the Greek word for ‘echo’.
Catechists are people who echo the Word of God.
The role of the catechist is an important and valued ministry within the Church. There are many experienced catechists throughout the Diocese and regular opportunities for training and support are provided at diocesan level.
A course for catechists, ‘Catechesis in the Mission of the Church’ supports those already involved in catechesis in further developing their own faith and understanding and offers a structured programme for those interested in becoming a catechist.
Each of the modules offers prayer, teaching, reflection and a time for questions.As well as the 18 modules spread over three terms, there are annual days of training for specific areas of catechesis i.e. Confirmation, Reconciliation and Eucharist and a Day of Recollection. Details of all courses are published on the Diocesan website.
Confirmation preparation is an integral part of parish and partnership youth ministry for Year 9 and above. Planning a Confirmation programme for young people is a privilege and a very special and specific part of the Church’s support for young people requiring us to plan in the best possible way.
The Diocesan Guidelines provide information and templates about the planning stages, building the team of catechists, themes and content, celebrations of enrolment and election, involvement of the parish community, service projects and safeguarding.
What is your partnership plan for preparing for any given Sacrament? An important decision for parish priests and catechists will be the number of parishes involved in the programme itself, particularly for the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The Guidelines encourage parishes to work together. Sometimes this means providing a catechetical programme so that catechists can be shared between parishes, but it can also mean planning together. The catechists enrich each other as they bring their different gifts and experiences into a team ministry. It is also important to think about the young people who are invited to participate in the programme. Some parishes may have a very small number of candidates and these young people may need the encouragement of a larger group. Programmes may be offered at parish, inter-parish or partnership level depending on local needs and resources.
It is vital, however, to seek concrete and imaginative ways to establish parish links. A programme which does not address this concern will not give young people a sense of belonging to the faith community outside of the temporary ‘Confirmation Group’ – which is a ‘moment’ in a young person’s faith journey but does not replace the need for an on-going participation in the life and mission of the Church. It will also fail to call the parish community to actively support the catechists who represent them. The Guidelines offer suggestions for parish involvement where programmes cross parish boundaries.Following Confirmation, catechists are encouraged to work with other parishioners to invite young people to continue to be involved in parish life through service projects or through parish ministries.
Whilst programmes are not always going to be partnership-wide due to distance or other factors, our partnerships provide a great opportunity for planning together, exchanging experience from individual parishes and offering catechist training and support, particularly for new catechists.
‘Survey after survey reveals that people want catechists to be warm, sensitive, understanding human beings. The qualities I hear people talk most enthusiastically about in describing those catechists who have greatly influenced their lives are the following: they are friendly; they are kind; they really care; they seem to understand; they truly believe what they teach; they acknowledge their own difficulties and struggles. That is why as catechists it is so important that you be in touch with your own humanity, that you simply be yourself.’
(‘I Am Bread Broken: A Spirituality for the Catechist’ Howard J Hubbard)
The Confirmation Guidelines remind us of the role and qualities of the catechist.
During the diocesan consultation in preparation for writing the Confirmation Guidelines, a residential retreat experience was described by many catechists as the most valuable part of the programme. It gives an experience of ‘belonging’ that normal sessions cannot give allowing time for relationships to be built with each other, with the catechists and very importantly with God. It is a time to relax and have fun, but it also allows quality space for prayer and reflection which is difficult to achieve in the candidates’ normal busy environment. One comment received during the diocesan consultation was
‘We began the programme as a group of individuals; after our time away, we were a community.’
The Youth Ministry Team offers a regular retreat for Confirmation groups at the Emmaus Youth Village or groups can book in and run their own programmes. Dates are available from firstname.lastname@example.org
‘On Fire’ Retreat
‘On Fire’ is offered by the Youth Ministry Team for young people who are preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation or have been recently Confirmed. It is an opportunity for young people to reflect on the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives within them and who calls each one of us to change the world by the way we live.
If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire by the way we live’
St Catherine of Siena
The ‘On Fire’ Retreat will bring together young people from across the Diocese giving them a wider experience of the Church community beyond their own parish or partnership.
This is also an opportunity for catechists to encourage and share with each other.
What next after Confirmation?
Celebrating the Sacrament is just the start, living it out ensures the fruit of the gift. Following Confirmation, catechists are encouraged to work with other parishioners to invite young people to continue to be involved in parish life through service projects or through parish ministries.Check out the section ‘Opportunities for Young People’and contact YMT.
Peer ministry is an important part of youth ministry and an invitation can be given to those recently confirmed to be ‘young catechists’ for the next programme. When this happens, candidates for Confirmation have an experience of journeying in faith with young people not much older than themselves and the young people become ‘givers’ as well as ‘receivers’.