‘Missionary discipleship’ focus of third Formation Day

| March 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

When local parish leaders gather at Pax Christi in Eden Prairie April 14 to hear from the authors of “Rebuilt: The Story of a Catholic Parish,” it will be the third time they’ve come together to explore the topics of discipleship and evangelization.

The 2016 Spring Formation Day is the last in a three-part series launched last year with the aim to “inform, inspire and equip” pastors, parish staff members, trustees and volunteers in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The day provides a foundation for discussion and collaboration within the archdiocese, as well as ongoing education for people who are involved in day-to-day ministry, organizers said.

“The idea was that the pastor and his staff would come, witness it and go back and do something with it,” said Deborah Savage, who teaches at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity and spoke at the first Formation Day in April 2015.

“What’s wonderful about that is that it enables and empowers those groups to take what they learned and do something with it without further instruction,” she said.

Also a member of the organizing committee, Savage kicked off the series with a lecture on the “work of the Church,” paving the road for November’s speakers: Sherry Weddell, author of “Forming Intentional Disciples” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012), and Jeff Cavins, a speaker, author and, until recently, the archdiocese’s director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

About 200 people attended Savage’s talk, but more than 600 attended Weddell’s presentation — an attendance jump that the day’s organizers said hasn’t escaped their attention, especially since the event was held during business hours on a weekday.

Organizers hope this year’s Formation Day, titled “Rebuild My Church: Missionary Discipleship and the Parish,” draws a similar crowd to hear Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran of Church of the Nativity in suburban Baltimore, Maryland, share the experience of reshaping their parish as they described in the book “Rebuilt” (Ave Maria Press, 2013).

Also speaking are Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Hosffman Ospino, assistant professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education at Boston College.

Ospino is an author of a recent Boston College report, “Catholic Schools in an Increasingly Hispanic Church” (see Report shows U.S. Catholic schools not doing enough for Latino Catholics).

The day’s schedule includes both a daytime and evening session; the evening session will be bilingual.

Evangelizing ministers

In her presentation, Weddell emphasized the importance of parish leaders working as a team, and organizers hope the upcoming Formation Day attracts parish groups, including pastors.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator, sent a video invitation to the archdiocese’s pastors urging them to attend.

Savage emphasized that the Formation Day series was not intended to be three “events,” but a strategic approach for long-term formation of parish leadership.

“This is the only time that there’s been three events connected like this in the archdiocese that I’m aware of,” added Bill Casey, a member of the archdiocese’s parish services team. “This is huge as we work with the planning of this, and it’s a positive effort of outreach for everybody.”

Spring Formation Day“Rebuild My Church: Missionary Discipleship and the Parish”
April 14, Pax Christi, Eden Prairie
Day program: 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Evening program: 6:30– 9:30 p.m.

Prior to the Formation Day series, a handful of parishes in the archdiocese were already examining the idea of discipleship, said Deacon Mickey Friesen, director of the Center for Mission in the archdiocese.

The first Formation Day focused on personal discipleship, the second on parish discipleship, and the third on “missionary discipleship,” or evangelization outreach beyond the parish.

“The idea of ‘discipleship’ . . . has become a way of talking, and we’ve had the benefit of papal teaching,”  Deacon Friesen said.

He pointed to Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” where he discusses missionary discipleship.

“To think about a parish, its main reason for being is to call forth, to form and to send disciples. That’s a paradigm shift for us, but it’s one that’s catching fire here,” he added.

“We’re just realizing that the way we did parish [life] is different than what we seem to be called to now. This movement from an ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality to ‘we need to lead people to Christ’ is a paradigm shift. I think we’re in the thick of it, and this is offering a way forward.”

The series has involved a unique collaboration of more than 10 organizing entities, including three archdiocesan offices, the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, the Center for Mission and several ministry organizations.

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