Easter harvest: Mixed results

Patrick H. Daly

What can parishes do to retain the commitment and enthusiasm of adults who enter the Church at Easter? Patrick H. Daly is priest at St Joseph, Malvern, Archdiocese of Birmingham.

At the Easter Vigil each year many Catholic parishes across the country celebrate adult baptisms and/or receive adults who are already Christian into full communion with the Catholic Church. The numbers of new Catholics who have entered the Church through baptism (catechumens) slightly outnumber those received into full communion (candidates) in 2017 and though the overall tally may have been down somewhat on recent years, nonetheless there are few parish communities which have not recently welcomed new members during the 'greatest of all solemnities'1 or on the occasion of Easter2. Even though the silent exodus from the pews which has been witnessed in Catholic parishes in the West for a generation or more continues unabated, the steady trickle of new converts to Catholicism is an annual reproof to those pessimistic about the Church's future or about Catholicism's abiding appeal.

A sobering fact casts a long shadow: not all of those who embraced Church membership through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process in 2017, or began their sacramental journey last Easter will stay the course. A source of concern to parochial clergy and to those dedicated lay Catholics involved in catechetical ministry at parish level is just how many of the Easter proselytes abandon religious practice and distance themselves from the Church. What is most disconcerting is that this falling away happens so quickly.

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