Book can help parishioners become disciples of Christ

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | March 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Author of ‘Forming Intentional Disciples’ to speak at Cathedral of St. Paul April 5

FID2Parish staff and volunteer leaders can help fellow parishioners follow the Lord in a deliberate way as disciples in the Church, said Sherry Weddell, author of the book “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.”

During the Cathedral of St. Paul’s First Saturday program at 8 a.m. April 5, Weddell will explain how parishioners can establish a culture of discipleship in their parish and encourage more Catholics to move from a cultural understanding of the faith to knowing Christ and bringing spiritual fruit into the Church.

Weddell is co-founder and co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, an affiliated ministry of the Western Dominican Province dedicated to equipping parishes to form lay Catholic apostles.

The challenge of forming disciples has far-reaching potential for parishes and the broader Church, Weddell said.

“Will we be a generation of saints in our time who 50 years after the [Second Vatican] Council, after a long period of conflict, basically turn our attention back to this most essential thing, which is calling our people to that lived, transformative encounter with Jesus Christ? she asked. “And then fostering mature discipleship in our parishes, in our dioceses, and all the incredible fruits — the gifts and the vocations and the new amazingly creative things that flow out of that — that change the culture, that change the direction of things?”

Reaching out

Sherry Weddell

Sherry Weddell

One reason many Catholics lack a personal relationship with Christ, despite the significant number of people who are spiritually searching, is that they find out about faith from others, and no one is speaking about such a relationship in parishes, Weddell said. “Most Catholics do not read the Catechism,” she said. “They’re not reading the Bible. They’re not reading papal documents. They are reading one another.”

Because of this silence about what’s at the heart of our faith, some of the estimated 3 million active U.S. parish leaders in a position to reach other parishioners for Christ also do not have a relationship with him, she said. “Disciples will be active, but not all active people are disciples.”

Growing in that relationship, as the book describes, changes all aspects of a person’s faith life, she said.

Weddell recommends parishes adopt the goal of doubling their number of disciples in five years through four steps that involve both group and one-on-one contact. Establishing a discipleship culture calls for a paradigm shift, she said. “We are talking about a vision.”

The process is not difficult, but it works best with the collaboration of parish leaders who discuss the book together, Weddell said, adding that the efforts of even one parish leader can make a difference.

According to Cathedral faith formation director Patrick Conley, the “double in five” goal “kind of moves the Church’s fundamental work of making disciples right out of Matthew 28 to front and center raise understanding and awareness of the goal.”

Conley, who has been a facilitator for the Catherine of Siena Institute’s Called and Gifted Discernment Process, which helps Catholics discern their charisms, asked sponsors of the Cathedral’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program to read “Forming Intentional Disciples” as a way to understand and help those they sponsor. The response has been positive, and Conley hopes the Cathedral will continue to use the book in other ways to build awareness and participation in evangelization.

Anyone who wants to help fellow Catholics know Christ should attend the First Saturday program, Conley said. “As we continue to see how the laity [are] in close partnership with our clergy and under the guidance of our shepherds ?—? the bishops ?—? that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s being the hands and feet, being the body of Christ here in the world today and continuing his work.”


Category: Faith and Culture