Monday, October 22, 2012

Sherry Weddell on Forming Intentional Disciples

Sherry Weddell, co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute and author of the book Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Know and Follow Jesus spoke at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church last Friday and Saturday about the current state of affairs in the Church in the United States. The talks drew large crowds of people, many from other parishes.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Reed
Ms. Weddell, who gave her talks here on the eve of World Mission Sunday, has been giving similar presentations to parishes and dioceses all over the country, making it her mission to help people to understand their mission of being a fruitful witness of Jesus Christ. In her talks at Blessed Sacrament, she took as her starting point various survey results and statistics (which confirmed what many have suspected all along) showing a disappointing level of knowledge of the faith and involvement in the Church, but more importantly, a failure of so many to understand that our faith is not about simply knowing some religious facts or adopting certain moral and ethical guidelines or about following a bunch of rules.

These survey results demonstrate that, for various reasons, so many people fail to grasp that our Catholic faith is actually primarily about relationship -- having an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ and establishing and fostering a joyous personal relationship with Him. Our faith must become a living and dynamic lived faith, a faith that reflects that relationship of love that we are called to have with our Lord, and not merely a begrudging or passive faith, much less a joyless or even an antagonistic one.

Accordingly, as Ms. Weddell implored, there is a need for us to become "intentional disciples" of Jesus, not merely for ourselves, but so that we might be better able to spread the light of His love and truth to others. Perhaps this need is most pressing with respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ who have drifted or fallen away or ran away from the Church or those still in the Church but who are at risk of leaving now in favor of something else, either Protestant congregations, secular worldly concerns, or outright agnosticism or atheism.

The summary for Ms. Weddell's recent book describes the situation this way:
How can we transmit a living, personal Catholic faith to future generations? By coming to know Jesus Christ, and following him as his disciples.

These are times of immense challenge and immense opportunity for the Catholic Church.

Consider these statistics for the United States.

•Only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing.
•Fully 10 percent of all adults in America are ex-Catholics.
•The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60 percent, between 1972 and 2010.
•Only 60 percent of Catholics believe in a personal God.

If the Church is to reverse these trends, the evangelizers must first be evangelized -- in other words, Catholics-in-the-pew must make a conscious choice to know and follow Jesus before they can draw others to him. This work of discipleship lies at the heart of Forming Intentional Disciples, a book designed to help Church leaders, parish staff and all Catholics transform parish life from within. Drawing upon her fifteen years of experience with the Catherine of Siena Institute, Sherry Weddell leads readers through steps that will help Catholics enter more deeply into a relationship with God and the river of apostolic creativity, charisms, and vocation that flow from that relationship for the sake of the Church and the world.

Learn about the five thresholds of postmodern conversion, how to open a conversation about faith and belief, how to ask thought-provoking questions and establish an atmosphere of trust, when to tell the Great Story of Jesus, how to help someone respond to God's call to intentional discipleship, and much more.

And be prepared for conversion because when life at the parish level changes, the life of the whole Church will change.
Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Know and Follow Jesus is available for purchase at the Catherine of Siena Institute website (where proceeds will go toward helping the Institute's mission of equipping parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics for the sake of their mission in the world) or at other places where books are sold. The website also includes the Intentional Disciples Blog, where Ms. Weddell posts and continues the discussion she began in her book and speaking tour.

See also "Called to radiate the Word of truth," Message of Pope Benedict for World Mission Day 2012.

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