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Pastoral care for catechumens

ENTERING LENT, CATECHUMENS begin final preparations for receiving the Sacraments of Initiation. In the past 10 years, the number of adults who have received baptism annually in the Diocese of Hong Kong has remained roughly between 2,000 and 3,000 people. In terms of one single diocese in the world, this number is enormous. 
 
However, over the past years, many have pointed out that many newly-baptised “entered through the front door and exit through the back door.” While there could be many reasons, let us talk about a couple of them: spiritual formation, and the support and care provided by our parish pastors.
 
The importance of spirituality and prayer is understood because the Church always emphasises the utmost importance of the relationship between God and his people. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that often during the formation process, more effort is spent on the rational and intellectual aspects of the faith and not so much on the spiritual in terms of depth and time. What is worrying is that some catechism groups provide hardly any real spiritual formation beyond opening and closing prayers.
 
It is encouraging to note that recently, some groups have tried new things. For example, allocating a lesson every month to introduce and experience various approaches to spirituality and prayer to help catechumens to build a better spiritual foundation and enhance their relationship with God.
 
Apart from catechumens’ relationship with God, their relationship with parish pastors is also very important. Literature from both the universal and local Church points out that the first and foremost ministry of a parish priest is to plan, implement, coordinate and promote the work of catechesis. 
 
However, not every parish priest is able to teach and the number is small. Thus, very often catechumens, who hardly know their parish pastors, might feel alienated. Indeed, parish pastors should try their best to seize the opportunity to reach out and show the care and concern of parish clergy for catechumens. For example, the priest can give guest lectures or take part in their social activities. 
 
In addition, the priest can meet them in person prior to the rites of Acceptance and Election so as to understand their experience the journey faith and to show a shepherd’s love and support for his flock. 
 
This is particularly important in building the relationship between the catechumens and candidates, and the parish pastors. These meetings to become simply routines, catechism assessment or administrative procedure, making catechumens feel nervous and detached. Instead, these face-to-face meetings should be an opportunity for a father to look after and advise his children.
 
In some gatherings for candidates and new Catholics, the participation of parish pastors is particularly important. 
 
In recent years, the participation of parish priests in the Rite of Scrutinies and the Mass for new Catholics seems to have dropped. While parish priests are busy with their ministries, it is still a sad thing.
 
Let us hope that candidates, under the guidance of parish pastors, can be purified and enlightened during and make good preparation for their new lives in the Church. SE