‘A great mission for the Church’

Neophytes sent forth into their communities following missioning Mass

By Gabrielle Nolan

More than 110 new Catholics and their sponsors attended the Sending of the Neophytes Mass, a special missioning for those who entered the Catholic Church across the diocese this past Easter.

According to the office of Christian formation, 360 people entered into full communion at the Easter Vigil, while still another 70 were brought into the Church during the year through smaller catechesis programs outside of the traditional RCIA cycle.

The Sending of the Neophytes Mass took place at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville on April 28.

Father David Boettner, rector of the cathedral, was the celebrant of the bilingual Mass. Deacon Walt Otey served as deacon of the Eucharist, and Deacon Butch Feldhaus served as deacon of the Word.

Deacon Jim Bello, director of Christian formation, and Chris Kite, Christian formation administrative assistant, proclaimed the readings.

“We’re so excited to be able to celebrate this missioning because God has a great plan for each of you in the world and God’s plan of salvation actually depends on you. No pressure,” Father Boettner said to a laughing crowd.

Father Boettner preached to the neophytes about all three Scripture readings from the Sunday liturgy.

The Gospel reading from John 15 portrays Jesus as the true vine and God as the vine grower.

“Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, and if we remain in Christ we will bear fruit. And that’s absolutely true,” Father Boettner said. “And we want to talk a little bit about two of those fruits: to be a Barnabas and the gift of love. And it’s important we talk about those gifts because we’re here today to send our neophytes out into the world. And the word ‘neophyte’ is kind of a strange word because it’s really only a temporary identity. So, neophyte is really just a new Catholic, someone who is newly planted. In fact, that’s what the Greek word for neophyte means, someone who is newly planted.”

The first reading from Acts 9 tells the story of Barnabas and Saul.

“The name Barnabas is a great name, and Barnabas is a critical figure in the first reading because without Barnabas, Saul would have never encountered the disciples in Jerusalem,” Father Boettner said. “They were afraid of Saul. They didn’t believe his conversion was real. They didn’t believe that he wasn’t still dangerous. And it took Barnabas, whose name means son of encouragement, to encourage Saul to come with him and meet the disciples. And it was Barnabas who encouraged the disciples to trust in the action of the Holy Spirit that not only was Saul’s conversion real, but that Saul had an important mission in the Church.”

“One of the things I want you to think about is, who is the Barnabas, the son or daughter of encouragement, that helped you to gather with the community of disciples? Who has helped you along your journey to grow closer in love with the person of Jesus Christ? Who took you by the hand and said, ‘I’ll go with you.’ Whoever that person is, pray for them today in thanksgiving. Thank God for the Barnabas who assisted you on this journey to this point.”

“And then also, think about your call to be a Barnabas,” he continued. “Because that’s part of that fruit that comes from remaining in Christ. When we remain in Christ, we become fruitful, and one of the ways to be fruitful is to think about who needs me to be a Barnabas for them. Who needs me to encourage them to join with the community of disciples? Because you’re also called to be a Barnabas.”

The second reading from 1 John 3 speaks of loving in deed and truth, rather than word or speech.

“And that’s important for us because, you know, sometimes in a poetic sense people talk about falling in love, like you tripped over a curb or something,” Father Boettner said. “And it’s a nice poetic term, but it’s not true. You don’t fall into love. You may feel things, and feelings are important, but real love requires a decision. Real love is when we make a commitment. Real love is when you decided that your relationship with Christ was going to be the most important part of your life, and you didn’t want anything else to get in the way of that. That’s a decision. And when we make the decision for love, it comes with concrete action.”

Father Boettner spoke about the Eucharist as the sacrament of unity and charity.

“Our world is desperately in need of both of those things,” he said. “And so, when we come together and we receive the Eucharist into our bodies, we’re being missioned to go out into the world and to work for unity and charity. And that means all the division we see around our country, whether it’s on a college campus or in our own neighborhood. We’re called to be people who build unity, not division. We’re called to be people who focus on concrete acts of charity rather than dissension. That’s part of our mission as Christians, and that’s one of the ways we bear fruit, by remaining in Christ.”

At the end of his homily, Father Boettner stated how thrilled he was to see the neophytes present.

Father Boettner blesses rosaries that were given to neophytes during the Sending of the Neophytes Mass April 28 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. (Photo Gabrielle Nolan)

“I’m excited that God has been working in your lives and that God has led you to enter into the full communion with the Catholic Church,” he said. “And this is just the beginning. That’s why the missioning is so important. In fact, the final words of the Mass in Latin are “Ite, missa est.” It’s an incomplete sentence, but it’s beautiful. It says, ‘Go, the Mass is.’ Well, that’s true because that’s where the missioning comes from. Missa means mission. It means to go out into the world and live what we have celebrated. And so, we gather together today to receive the body and blood of Christ, to receive that mission to be missionaries of unity and charity in the world.”

At the conclusion of Mass, Father Boettner blessed rosaries provided by the diocesan Office of Christian Formation to give as gifts to the neophytes and their sponsors.

“At your confirmation, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Father Boettner said. “Today, you get another gift; it’s a gift of a rosary that we will bless and give to each of you as a sign of the love of the Diocese of Knoxville for each of you and a desire to continue to walk with you in your journey of faith.”

Deacon Bello said that “the gift of a rosary is an accessible and tangible reminder to pray and ask our Mother’s intercession for our needs and the needs of others.”

“Many of these neophytes were carrying their own rosaries with them as they entered the cathedral, but I believe this one will remind them that they are part of something much bigger, but still intimate in the Diocese of Knoxville,” Deacon Bello shared.

Deacon Bello noted that during the neophytes’ first year as Catholics, most of the parishes continue to walk with the neophytes in the “tradition of mystagogy, which is that period of continued faith formation that follows their coming into full communion with the Church.”

“Our diocese has a strong culture of continuing that journey through sponsors, godparents, and fellow parishioners,” he said.

Jeffrey Doody, a neophyte from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Newport, attended the missioning Mass.

“[The cathedral] is a beautiful place, only my second time to be here,” he said. “But I really love it. When Deacon called me about coming, I was like, yep, we’ll be there; I love this place.”

Mr. Doody said he had always wanted to be a Catholic, calling it a “lifelong desire.”

His experience of coming into the Church at Easter was “wonderful.”

“Definitely the best Easter ever,” he said.

Cullen Chrivia, a neophyte from All Saints Parish in Knoxville, said his experience of coming into the Church at Easter was “unlike any other experience I’ve had.”

Mr. Chrivia was inspired to become a Catholic after “a lot of digging and research and soul-searching and God reaching out,” he said.

Father Boettner’s homily focused on spreading Christ’s love and Gospel message to others, which is something Mr. Chrivia plans to do through his work.

“It kind of harkens to my career almost because I want to go into politics, and I want to take what I’ve learned from God and His teachings and I want to abide that to how I work every day and how I help people in the future,” he shared.

Deacon Bello noted that not only did the body of Christ grow in numbers but also in faith.

“The movement of the Holy Spirit was apparent in this Mass and sending of the neophytes,” he said. “I believe the fire in these hearts will result in immediate evangelization of those they meet. This group truly seems to understand that this is the beginning of a great mission for the Church.”

Comments 2

  1. Praise God for His eternal planting, and tending of His beautiful church! Thus, always bring a harvest of souls to continue His work in this world. Welcome to all!

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