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Welcoming new faithful

The Second Scrutiny and the Rite of Anointing for catechumens, takes place this Sunday. Over the past decade, about 3,000 adults were baptised in Hong Kong every year. If they grow steadily in faith formation, they will bring fresh air for evangelisation. 
 
In recent years, some parishes have initiated many ideas to train catechumens. This not only sustains teaching or sharing within catechumen groups, but also encourages them to participate in liturgy, charity and spiritual experiences so that they can establish friendships with parishioners.
 
We should not ignore the fact that social media has changed the formation environment. Anyone can go online and make their own decisions on learning content and method. Information over the Internet is fast and broad, so in-depth things such as reading books and interpersonal interaction seem to have become time-consuming luxuries. “Instant-consumption” Facebook and information “For Dummies” always appeals to people. 
 
To keep abreast of the times, the Church community should be ready to provide convenient formation channels and easily accessible information. However, if formation is simply about instant emotional reaction, it will not help people to connect faith with their daily lives.
 
Pope Francis, in his, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Exult), reminds us, “All of us, but especially the young, are immersed in a culture of zapping. We can navigate simultaneously on two or more screens and interact at the same time with two or three virtual scenarios. Without the wisdom of discernment, we can easily become prey to every passing trend” (167).
 
The pope emphasises that holiness can be achieved “through prayer, reflection, reading and good counsel.” Of these, reading is highly important. It enables us to connect with worldly issues and, more importantly, allows us to have a profound dialogue with our inner heart.
 
In this era of mobile phones, some Church groups have tried to integrate faith experience and reading with stories rather than doctrine. For instance, Holy Cross parish and the Diocesan Commission for Ongoing Formation of the Laity co-organised an ongoing formation programme which uses, as its backbone, the Sunday Mass and references Father Henri J. M. Nouwen’s works on spirituality. Furthermore,  activities also attach importance to the voices of the low-income people of the community, sharing life experiences and the gospel during meals.
 
Whether the stories are in book or oral form, they are important nutrition for growth. Christians walk together in the history of salvation. When we serve the weakest, when we witness to ethical and family values from a prophetic perspective and speak about Jesus using the stories of Hong Kong people, the general public can see his merciful face in us.
 
This is why some parishes encourage catechumens to serve the sick, the disadvantaged and refugees in the community. This is intended to keep faith alive and practical while helping them to feel a part of the evangelisation work of the parish.
 
When a parish becomes a garden where newcomers to the faith grow together, an ongoing formation atmosphere will develop dynamically and naturally. Let us continue to pray for the new faithful, and pray to the Holy Spirit to guide them to extend the fire of faith. SE