On Thursday 7 June 2012 at the Liverpool Archdiocesan Centre for Evangelisation more than 130 clergy and catechists gathered from around the archdiocese for the launch of the new diocesan Baptism resource.
Father John McLoughlin, Episcopal Vicar for Formation in the Archdiocese, explained that the new resource is: ‘...based on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and provides for a journey of adult catechesis of the parents with four distinct stages. As such it demands a new mindset, a new approach, from the parishes that use it. It is a unique resource and needs to be understood as a process of adult catechesis which allows parents to reflect on their role as the first and best teachers of their child in the ways of faith. If this is to happen then the parish, in particular the clergy and parish baptism teams, must make sure that parents are made to feel welcome, affirmed in their decision to request baptism for their child and enabled to appreciate some of the ways in which they truly can be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith.’
As part of the process the parents are introduced or re-introduced to the importance of the Lord’s Day: Sunday, as they are invited to share in the celebration of the Eucharist with the parish community. From this encounter with Christ at the celebration of the parish community Sunday Eucharist the parents are led to a time of catechesis and an opportunity for growth in their own calling as parents.
These three weekly formation sessions are themselves unique because they allow the parents to reflect on the vocation of Catholic Christian parenthood.
In these sessions the parents are gently guided to ponder their own baptismal calling and what it means for them in the ‘here and now’ of their lives today. They are led to reflect on their image of God and to discern if their image of God is the right image they wish to pass on to their child. In this discernment process Jesus is presented to them as the perfect and only true image of God the Father in the Spirit. Then during the third and final session of the period of formation the parents are guided to reflect more deeply on the Eucharist as the source and summit of our Christian life: food for the journey ‘until Christ comes again,’ writes St Paul (1 Corinthians 11:26). During these weeks of formation the parents are also given gentle helps to introduce or reintroduce prayer and Catholic customs in to their home and family life.
The resource was piloted across ten very different communities between June 2011 and January this year and drew praise from members of Parish Baptism Teams who spoke of the life-long learning aspect of the programme and of the importance of reflecting alongside family members. One team member said: ‘Parents were engaged from the beginning. It did not feel “preachy” or judgemental but was open and involving and encouraged personal reflection and enquiry’.
Parents too were positive with many stressing that they felt welcome and involved with the Church in a new way. One said: ‘I felt comfortable and happy at the meetings, that I was making the right choice’ and another commented ‘I have been reconnected with the Church and faith in a positive way.’
At the evening launch Archbishop Patrick Kelly gave his whole hearted support to the new resource and spoke passionately about the opportunity it affords us as a diocese for evangelisation commenting that this new resource takes seriously the hopes and aspirations of the gift of the Rite of Infant Baptism which was given to us by Pope Paul VI in 1969.
‘Baptism – all you need for life’ retails at £35 (40 Euro) which includes a Catechist book covering the theology, the process, the formation sessions, and the on-going support of the parents. Also included in the pack are formation session cue cards for catechists, a catechist training DVD, and five sets of family prayer cards: more of these can be ordered as needed using the order form included in the pack. For details of how to order contact the Archdiocese of Liverpool Department of Pastoral Formation. Tel: 0151 522 1040. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org