MOST of us were baptised as infants and never had a chance to learn about the faith we inherited, which is precisely why the Neocatechumenal Way is heaven-bent on catechesis.
Brisbane archdiocese has many Neocatechumenal Way communities, including at Loganholme, Wynnum and Newmarket.
Sydney Neocatechumenal Way priest Fr Tony Trafford said their mission came straight from the pages of the Catholic Catechism article 1231.
“Where infant Baptism has become the form in which this sacrament is usually celebrated, it has become a single act encapsulating the preparatory stages of Christian initiation in a very abridged way,” the catechism reads.
“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.”
Fr Trafford said the catechism clearly tells us baptised infants must be given post-baptismal catechumenate in order to “bring the grace of the sacrament to fruition in the life of the person”.
That is where the Neocatechumenal Way steps in.
The Way invites people every year to undertake catechesis as well as reaching out into new communities with the permission of the parish priest and bishop. And catechesis is for life.
Members of the Way learn and discover their faith every week at catechesis sessions, the staple of the community’s ministry.
Evangelisation is an inescapable consequence of this mission.
“As a (Neocatechumenal Way) community begins to grow, it’s clear they’ve received something that’s changed their lives,” Fr Trafford said.
“And when you see something that’s changed your life, you want to tell other people about it because it could change their lives too.”
The evangelisation to follow was as old as the journey from Antioch to Corinth.
“If you look at the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles and the New Testament, you see how (St) Paul and the others went from one city to another bringing the faith they’d received by announcing the Gospel,” Fr Trafford said.
“And what they saw, when they announced the Gospel, that itself produced fruit without having to set out creating structures or anything else.
“The fact of announcing the kerygma awakens in the heart of the person who receives it.
“The Church grew like that – and we work a bit in the same way.”
At Eastertide, members of the community also go out to do missions of the square in public.
Fr Trafford said they set up a cross and a lectern outside a shopping centre and started preaching the message of the Gospel.
“I’m sure the treasure we received is so great it’s not just for us,” he said.
“If God chooses us to be Christians, it’s not because of anything we’ve done, it’s because he has a mission for a Christian to be a sign and a witness to the world.
“That Christ is crucified and risen. And this is a sign of God’s love for mankind, for the sinner.
“We don’t keep quiet. We try to announce Him to the world.”
Young people especially were drawn to the Way in droves.
Fr Trafford said young people recognised what was authentic and saw in their community an honesty and a sincerity.
He said the Neocatechumenal Way took about 250 young people to Panama for World Youth Day this year, and 450 to Krakow.
A unique liturgy was part of the appeal of the Way. The Neocatechumenal Way celebrates Mass with some changes to a typical Mass.
“We always celebrate (Mass) in the form of an assembly, around the altar, because the call of the Church is to love and to be one, and so we can’t be anonymous,” Fr Trafford said.
“It’s important to see one another, and listen to the Word of God together, seeing one another, hearing Christ being proclaimed in our midst.”
Other special Mass permissions included introductions to all the readings to help people listen closely or to simply approach a tired old reading in a new way.
Fr Trafford said the introduction was “not some theological treatise, it’s about me now, in front of this Word, which is Christ being proclaimed to me”.
He said these alterations helped young people become involved too.
Not only was the liturgy strongly articulated, vocations were too.
Fr Trafford said when the Church was life-giving then all the charisms appeared.
Marriage, priesthood and religious life were all highly encouraged in the communities.
This year the Way has had four ordinations, two from its Sydney seminary and two from its Perth seminary.
The Way opened 120 seminaries across the world in the past 25 years.
“The fruits are there,” Fr Trafford said, “God is faithful – He rescues.”
Fr Trafford had a simple message to Australians – “God loves us as we are and his love is shown to us in Jesus Christ”.