- The Assembly
The Christian community, as a community, plays the central role in the formation of adults. "It is precisely through the experience of the local community, through coming to be exposed to and immersed in its life of koinonia, leiturgia, didache, diakonia and kerygma, that the inquirer and later catechumen is drawn into the life of Christ as it is given expression in the body of the faithful."
Community The five Greek words used above are the hallmarks of a Christian community and were used by the early Church to understand the way in which the Holy Spirit worked in and through all of us, the Body of Christ. The first of these, koinonia, can be glossed as both community and communion. Through our communion with one another we are made one with Christ and thus are made one community. As the readings from the Book of Acts remind us throughout this Easter season, "The community of believers was of one heart and mind and…there was no needy person among them" (Acts 4:32-34).
Liturgy The second aspect of our community though which those coming to the Church may encounter Christ is leiturgia, our liturgy. Literally understood as the work of the people, the liturgy requires of all of us "full, conscious, and active participation" in the liturgy that we celebrate every Sunday as we gather to encounter God in the Word, the Eucharist, and one another.
Teaching Didache is the instruction or teaching of the Church, the means through which we come to a deeper understanding of the Paschal mystery. In order that we can ourselves be teachers we must enrich our lived experience of the faith with the understanding that comes from reflection on the Word of God, the wisdom of the Church Fathers, and the writings of contemporary teachers of the faith.
Service As a community of believers, gathered each Sunday to worship our savior, and seeking to form ourselves in the teachings of the Church, we become disciples and do the work of Christ. This service--diakonia—is our becoming the hands and feet of Christ, doing the work of the kingdom of heaven on earth. As we serve the Lord in the liturgy we must serve him wherever else we encounter him, such as Christ says, "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).
Witness Finally, kerygma is the witness and proclamation of our faith. As prophetic Church we must never be afraid to bear witness to Christ and the transformative power of his love for the world. When others see in us a community that witnesses to our faith as much in the marketplace and public sphere as in the church building, then they are drawn with us into a more intimate relationship with the life of Christ.
Morrill reminds us that within our community "there needs to be a quality of Christian living, a genuine concern for and interest in the catechumens, a commitment to surrounding the catechumens with prayer, a desire to lead them by example into the practice of Christian living, an openness and welcome into the heart of the community; into the homes of community members and into the numerous ways in which the community gathers. The community also needs to display a quality in its worship, the seriousness with which it takes its priestly role. In prophetic and kingly service the community also needs to be one that is committed to social action and gospel responsibility in the family and marketplace. The community will, finally, make available and provide the appropriate formation for those who will minister, on behalf of the community, in various capacities in the whole process of the journey of initiation."
This is a tall order, but by virtue of our baptism we have been given the means along with the mission. Through our baptism we are invited to constantly be reborn in fellowship with Christ and one another through worship, teaching, service, and prophetic witness.
Sponsors are the primary catechists for catechumens and candidates. Sponsors are like masters in an apprenticeship relationship, passing along the living tradition of the Church. This does not mean that they need to know everything or be the perfect Catholic. Rather, a sponsor is someone who gives life to what a Catholic is, does, and says. They also serve as a bridge between the community and the catechumens and candidates, much as Barnabas paved the way for Paul's inclusion among the Christian community (Acts 9:27).
Each sponsor is expected to form a relationship with a catechumen or candidate, remaining with them not only through all parts of their journey of conversion guided by the RCIA, but ideally as a lifelong partner in ongoing and mutual faith development. Representing the Church as a witness, companion, and model is a great responsibility, but one that most sponsors find deeply and personally rewarding, in addition to often learning a great deal about their own faith. Sponsors pray for and with, listen to, and gently guide catechumens and candidates.
Sponsors should be active members of the Immaculate Heart of Mary community and need not have any relationship with the catechumen or candidate before this time, however, many sponsors are those people who initially brought a catechumen or candidate to the Church. Guidance for those interested in becoming a sponsor is provided by the Director of Religious Education. Sponsors will be paired up with catechumens and candidates as needed.
For more on the role and responsibilities of Sponsors, please contact Deacon Wally Haarsgaard at email@example.com.