New Members, New Life

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

One of the beautiful things about spring is the new and abundant life that appears. All around us, nature is giving evidence of that new life in the lengthening days, the blooming of plants and flowers, and the animals emerging from their dens and nests accompanied by their little ones.
It’s a time of new life for the Church as well, for two reasons. First, throughout the season we continue to celebrate and rejoice in the new life of Christ, a gift offered to us all. And we also celebrate the life that new members of the Church bring to us — those who became Christians as they were baptized at Easter, and those who were received into the Catholic Church when they professed their faith and received the sacraments for the first time.
It’s good to recall that in receiving new members into the Church, both they and we have obligations and some very special opportunities.
New members have the obligation to be faithful to the promises they’ve made, to be involved in the life of the Church they’ve joined. Or as I said to the catechumens and candidates during the Rite of Election this year, “if you’re going to be a Catholic, be a good one.” What does that mean but that they attend Sunday Mass each week, that they receive the sacraments frequently, that they accept and follow the teachings of the Church, and that they support the Church, spiritually and financially, to the best of their ability. It makes no sense at all to join a Church and then quickly abandon it.
And those of us who have been members of the Church also have obligations to our new brothers and sisters. Sponsors and godparents of the new members have some special duties regarding the neophytes. They should practice the faith themselves, give good example, and accompany them to Sunday Mass every week.
But the entire parish can also be involved in welcoming their new members. The parish should be eager to integrate the new members into the life of the Church, perhaps offering them the opportunity to be actively involved in the liturgical life of the Church, in the apostolic and charitable work of the parish, and its social life too.
The reception of new members is a cause for great joy and hope for the Church. It’s a rich blessing we should celebrate, and an opportunity we should be sure to embrace.
Something to think about: Do you know anyone who was received into the Church this year? Be sure to congratulate them and welcome them!