There is a new trend in our Church. For generations, there was a very typical family pattern—young married couples would move into the area, register in the parish, baptize their infants and get their kids enrolled in CCD throughout their school years (the parents would volunteer to teach CCD and were involved in The Altar Rosary and Holy Name Society), until they received their Confirmation. Those kids would grow up, get married, baptize their infants, and so on. For generations, this has been the norm, but increasingly the norm is changing.
In our culture, people seem to be understanding their relationship with both God and the Church differently than what we are used to. Lots of people from my generation (the 70’s and 80’s) haven’t received all of their Sacraments. Many choose not to get married in the Church. A good deal of them are not baptizing their children as infants. Many, along their journey, have one or two failed marriages and are now raising blended families.
At some point, many of these families are feeling as though they would like to have a deeper relationship with God. They are choosing to bring their families to the Church of their youth, and making our parishes part of their lives. As a result of this, we are baptizing older babies than we are used to, and many more children of catechetical age are being initiated through the children’s RCIA. Many young adults are seeking to fulfill their initiation in Confirmation, and bringing their marriages into the Church. They and their children are choosing together to make God the heart of their homes.
We are at a very privileged and exciting moment in our Church. We are witnessing families freely and intentionally choosing to live out their relationship with Christ alongside of us. We have people who, as adults, have left the Church coming back to find their heart’s home. We have people who were brought up with another faith, or no faith at all seeking truth and inclusion in our community. We have people who are choosing to live a very holy, single life, offering their time and service generously. People are moving to suburbs after retirement seeking a restful way of life and offering their time to the care of their grandchildren and their parish. We have people coming from every walk of life, age group; every economic and cultural background choosing to worship God with us. We never know the circumstances of the person sitting next to us in Church—it could be their first time back in years, or their first time ever in a Catholic Church.
We have a beautiful opportunity to be Christ’s own welcoming presence to every person who steps into our Church, knowing that their experience and their presence is enriching and informing who we are as God’s Universal Church on Earth. We are being gifted with the chance to reconcile God’s people to the Sacramental life and to share in the mission of Christ and to build up the Body of Christ.