Following up after Baptism and First Communion
LISANNE V. JENSEN
Photographs have been snapped. Family and friends have celebrated together. Gifts have been opened. The signed, stamped certificate has been presented. Years of preparation are complete — culminating in the holy sacrament of Baptism or Eucharist.
“What’s next?” might now be the question on many families’ minds.
As directors of religious education — and as a parish community — keeping families engaged through outreach after a sacrament is essential. Maintaining consistent, encouraging, and meaningful communication is crucial for building these parish relationships.
GrowingUpCatholic.com offers tips for supporting families, especially during the first few
years post-Baptism, when losing touch can happen:
- Coach parents to build households of faith and incorporate faith practices into the family
- Encourage parents to foster their own faith life and maintain healthy balances.
- Offer information in a compact format busy parents are likely to actually read.
- Invite parents to Mass and other events in the parish.
In the weeks after Baptism
During the Baptism rite, the celebrant proclaims: “You are accepting the responsibility of
training your child in the practice of the faith.” These instructions are then repeated: “Make it your constant care to bring your child up in the practice of the faith.” But what does this “training” and “constant care” look like in practice? Paragraph 1231 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes our responsibility: “By its very nature, infant Baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate. Not only is there a need for instruction after Baptism but also for the necessary flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth.”
SHORT AND SIMPLE IS BEST: Parents of infants are extremely busy (and exhausted). They might not have time to process a lengthy packet of information or attend a post-baptismal session. A handwritten note is a thoughtful gesture to let families know their parish cares about them, is praying for them, has helpful resources, and is accompanying them on their faith journey. Another idea is sending a greeting card to honor the one-year anniversary of their child’s Baptism.
GET THE WORD OUT: What information do families need following Baptism? Consider creating a concise, bulleted list (perhaps a one-page newsletter). Include Mass times, opportunities for Penance, RCIA information (for learning more about the Catholic faith and sacraments), ways to serve in the parish, and parenting resources.
REACH OUT PERSONALLY: Friendly, personal contact helps build strong, lasting relationships. Some adults might prefer face-to-face communication. Ask the family how they’re doing, and invite them to upcoming parish events. Give them a call to let them know they’re remembered.
EMPHASIZE FAITH FORMATION: The next step after a child’s Baptism is often faith-formation enrollment. Provide complete details (perhaps in a faith-formation brochure). Ensure that parents are aware of any special children’s activities (such as couples’ or
REMEMBER GODPARENTS: Contact the adults who are sharing in the baptized child’s life as godparents. Provide godparent resources — and even present them with an official godparent certificate that includes the above parish information.
In the weeks after first Eucharist
After first Eucharist, many families disappear from faith formation — and perhaps even from the parish — until Confirmation. But “the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’; for in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself” (CCC, 1324). Reinforce this truth while keeping in touch with parents after their children have received First Communion.
ALTAR SERVING: Once a young person has received Eucharist, he or she is usually eligible for altar service. This ministry is a terrific way for young people to learn more about the Mass. Altar servers are also exposed to the vocation of the priesthood and diaconate. (An added bonus: parents will likely attend Mass if their child is serving!)
CELEBRATE THE OCCASION: Mark the first anniversary of a child’s First Communion by
sending a greeting card to the family.
VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL: VBS is one of the biggest evangelization opportunities a parish can offer. This ministry engages not only the children participating but also young volunteers and adults.
ADULT CATECHESIS: Consider offering adult faith-formation sessions during regular faith formation. A Bible study program — or even casual faith-sharing sessions — might appeal. During Advent, offer adults an Advent wreath-making workshop. Or, if catechetical sessions aren’t possible, display Catholic resources for parents while they’re waiting for their children: books, magazines, newspapers, flyers, brochures, guides for praying the rosary, devotionals, prayer guides, and so on.
Lisanne V. Jensen serves as the coordinator of faith formation and youth ministry at The
Church of St. Joseph and as the secondary faith formation and youth ministry coordinator at St. James, both in the Diocese of Albany, New York. She resides in Columbia County, New York, with her husband and two children.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, November 2018
PHOTO: JANTANEE RUNPRANOMKORN/SHUTTERSTOCK