Chicagoland

Vicariate II Mass revives tradition of welcoming neophytes

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
May 8, 2019

Vicariate II revives tradition of Mass welcoming neophytes

Mundelein seminarian Andrew Matijevic organized a Mass for neophytes at Mary Seat of Wisdom Parish in Park Ridge on April 28, 2019. The neophyte Mass is an opportunity for those who were baptized and fully initiated into the Catholic Church at Easter to celebrate together and to receive a blessing from the bishop, as well as the support of the congregation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Auxiliary Bishop Mark Bartosic incenses the altar during a Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The cantor leads the congregation in song. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Bartosic gives the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Priests assist Bishop Bartosic in blessing the neophytes following the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Members of the congregation bring up the gifts to Bishop Bartosic. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mundelein seminarian Andrew Matijevic (background) assists Bishop Bartosic during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Neophytes pray during the Eucharistic prayer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mundelein seminarian Andrew Matijevic distributes the Blood of Christ during Communion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The neophytes pose for a photo with Bishop Bartosic. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

For Joyce Nordhus, Communion on April 28, Divine Mercy Sunday, was something she had been looking forward to for a long time.

Nordhus was baptized, confirmed and received the Eucharist for the first time at the Easter Vigil Mass April 20 at St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Park Ridge. She attended a neophyte Mass April 28 with Bishop Mark Bartosic at Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish, also in Park Ridge.

“Just to be able to walk up and take the Eucharist with everyone else, that was special,” said Nordhus, one of almost 20 neophytes who attended the Mass.

The Mass was planned to allow neophytes — people who have recently entered into full communion with the church — an opportunity to be with their local bishop, said Andrew Matijevic, a seminarian who is completing an internship at Mary, Seat of Wisdom.

Matijevic has long had an interest in the RCIA process and the catechumenate, and he knew that the RCIA rite published in 1973 encourages bishops to welcome new Catholics at a neophyte Mass during the Easter season.

But it’s a practice that had fallen into disuse, at least in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“When I brought it up to the pastor, Father Jerry (Gunderson) said that Cardinal (Joseph) Bernardin used to do it, but as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been done since then,” Matijevic said.

So as part of his internship, Matijevic organized the Mass with Bishop Bartosic, vicar for Vicariate II, at 7 p.m. on Divine Mercy Sunday, and invited neophytes from all over the vicariate. A handful of parishes sent people.

The idea is both to welcome people and to continue to teach them during the period after they enter the church, a time formally referred to as “mystagogia.”

“The bishop is the shepherd, the leader of his people and a spiritual father to both the people and his priests,” Matijevic said. “The bishop is the connector to the faith.”

In the early church, bishops would administer the sacraments of initiation to all Catholics. But as the church grew and there were too many people in too many parish communities for that to be practical, pastors began administering the sacraments during the Easter Vigil Mass and the bishop would welcome all the new Catholics at a Mass in the following weeks.

Elizabeth White, archdiocesan director of evangelization and missionary discipleship, said something like a neophyte Mass would help newly received Catholics feel welcomed and feel connected to the church beyond their own parishes.

“It’s such a human need to feel a sense of belonging,” White said.

Bishop Bartosic said he was delighted to celebrate the Mass.

“I hope this is the first of many,” the bishop said.

Matijevic said that he would eventually like to see the archdiocese hold neophyte Masses in each vicariate during the Easter season, ending with an archdiocesan Mass at Holy Name Cathedral on Pentecost.

Gunderson said that when Cardinal Bernardin celebrated Mass for the neophytes, it was one Mass at the cathedral, usually toward the end of the Easter season, perhaps on the feast of the Ascension or on Pentecost.

Whenever it happens, such a Mass fosters a important sense of connection, Matijevic said.

“People wouldn’t want to be Catholic if they didn’t want to find something,” Matijevic said. “I want this to be a real community of faith. And I want people to see that it’s not over when they receive the sacraments of initiation. We are all called to ongoing, lifelong initiation.”

Nordhus said she began attending Mass after her mother died six years ago. She didn’t sign up for RCIA until Father Britto Berchmans, pastor of St. Paul of the Cross, recognized her and greeted her in the grocery store, making her feel that she was already part of the community.

Neophytes Angelica Garcia and Adrianna Montano, sisters and parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary, 3834 N. Spaulding Ave., said they were both baptized as children but never completed their sacraments of initiation.

“I wanted to do it for myself, to get closer to my faith,” Garcia said.

Montano was interested, too, so they went through the process together.

“Everything just fell into place,” Montano said.

Matijevic said organizing the Mass was not difficult.

“We usually have a 7 p.m. Mass, so we didn’t have to add one,” Matejevic said. Parish groups supplied refreshments afterwards as well.

Topics:

  • evangelization
  • rcia

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Deacon Keith Strohm is a deacon for the Archdiocese of Chicago and travels the country creating and sustaining processes and programs of evangelization and formation at the group, parish and diocesan level that focus on making missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. He is also the executive director of M3 Ministries (m3catholic.com) and a co-author, along with six other collaborators, with Sherry Weddell of the book “Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples,” which is a follow-up to the book, “Forming Intentional Disciples.”

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