From Fr. Bennet Tran, Pastor: One of the more significant books that has influenced my thinking and ministry is Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. I hope that we as a parish will engage with the insights offered by Weddell. In the coming months, we will print a summary of a chapter of the book the first and third Sundays of each month in the bulletin and include on line. I hope this book will spark interest in our discussions about what is happening in the Church among our family members and friends and encourage us to take action to respond to the signs of the time. The book is readily available on line.
Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, by Sherry A. Weddell
Chapter 11: Personally Encountering Jesus in His Church
Summarized by Brad Bursa, edited and revised November 2018
Evangelizing parishes need to look at how they can turn already existing ministries into evangelization opportunities. Creating a culture of discipleship is to create multiple, overlapping opportunities for people to personally encounter Jesus in the midst of his Church.
We need to have a variety of different paths or doors to discipleship available and visible so that most people will find at least one way to connect with or draw closer to Christ. Instead of thinking of these ministries as separate, siloed endeavors run by different parish interest groups, we need to see all of our ministries in light of our primary call to make disciples. Run every program with one focus: bringing people into an encounter with Jesus Christ.
Charisms (Gifts of the Holy Spirit) as Aids on the Journey to Intentional Discipleship: Charisms play a critical role in the mission of evangelization. Charisms are ways that you and I are empowered by God to be channels of his love, mercy, beauty, truth, wisdom, healing, and provision for others. The power of God flowing through a charism can help reveal Christ, remove impediments to belief, and encourage others to open their lives to God and receive sanctifying grace through the sacraments.
It is critical that we understand that charisms are given to all the baptized, not just to a few extraordinary Christians, and to individuals as well as to religious communities and movements. We are not interchangeable cogs in an ecclesial machine. Being open to these gifts of the Holy Spirit, discerning them, and then exercising them for the sake of others are critical acts of obedience. God gives each of us particular charisms.
If a charism is genuine, then God has given it to people in our parish community for a reason. At this moment in our history, we particularly need the charisms ordered toward evangelization and making disciples.
Part of fostering a culture of discipleship is to expect conversion. If we expect God to transform lives, we need
to have a plan so that our parishes encourage and support that transformation, rather than unwittingly suppress it.
Think of the people you would describe as intentional disciples in your parish. What seems to have encouraged their development as disciples? Do they share any common experiences such as a retreat or community service?
What missed opportunities exist in our parish? What thresholds aren’t being addressed? How could you make existing programs and events more evangelizing?
Are there any charisms that our parish is not currently tapping into? How could you invite people with their charisms to use their gifts for the work of the Church?