In my dream world, I envision a Catholic parish with vibrant Eucharistic Liturgies -- 3 per weekend with different music styles/choirs/cantors but with mostly the same songs all connected to the readings and Liturgical year, with Ministers of Hospitality of all ages greeting everyone who enters and people seated in the pews looking up and smiling --or at least giving a cordial head-nod- as others join (unless their head is bowed in brief personal prayer as they kneel before the alter, then they look up an smile.) After faithful proclamations of the Word, a homily that tries to tie the scriptures to life experiences of participants of many ages, and a holy Eucharistic feast, participants exit and are thanks for coming by the Ministers of Hospitality even as family members and friends gather to greet one another....perhaps heading towards coffee and doughnuts, a parish meal, or continuing education.
At this dreamed of parish, at a New Parishioners welcoming celebration, they receive a Parish Handbook with the many programs, ministries and groups listed with contact information, and complete a survey asking for his/her gifts, skills, interest, etc. The Staff members later that same week then follow up with the new parishioners with a phone call or greeting card (or both?) with suggestions of the programs, ministries and groups they might like....and the Staff gives the leaders of the same contact information for new parishioners they may want to invite.
AND, this same parish walks through the SAME New Parishioner Information with all the post-confirmation students soon after the sacrament, so that these new fully-initiated "adults" in the Church are aware of the variety of opportunities they have to be full, active and conscience participants.... ah, yes, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated so well decades ago, I have a dream!
The best part is that this last part of the dream can still happen even if the first two parts do not....all confirmation coordinators/ youth ministers can have a post-confirmation session focused on the next steps and helping the teens (perhaps also their parents and sponsors?) see that they may have "graduated" -- but now they move into taking steps to adulthood in the Church! After all, graduation is not an end, but a new beginning! Take the time to celebrate past accomplishments, but be sure to plan for the next steps!
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.