Discipleship and Thresholds – Part 2
Last week we took a dive into an article by Katherine Rowell Coolidge who does spiritual interviews with people. She wrote that “One of the most illuminating things about hour-long conversations she has had with heavily committed practicing Catholics or full-time staff was that many started their spiritual life as a cross between an agnostic and a deist.” The interviewers were struck by how far the majority had had to travel along their faith journey.
The Mission of St. Monica is to make Disciples. That’s from The Boss as we read in Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” It’s the mission of every parish. To do this, each of us needs to figure out what this looks like in our day-to-day life. That’s the “Vision.”
Over the past few years, we have engaged several Catholic organizations to help us grow spiritually, energize our parish, focus on the specifics of the Mission and establish the Vision. These included:
- Catherine of Siena Institute (Explain and identify people’s individual charisms, explain what “discipleship” even is, help people determine God’s purpose in their life)
- Amazing Parish (Implement direction in parish management and leadership)
- ReBuilt Parish and Divine Renovation (Provide guidelines for direction on achieving outreach to non-active Catholics, service to the poor, initiatives to energize existing parish “ministries” [within the parish] and “missions” [outside the parish], Improve liturgy through a focus on hospitality, hymnody and homilies)
- Catholic Leadership Institute (Measure the “spiritual maturity of the parish and parishioners)
- Define the parish “Mission” and “Vision.” (Assist pastor, staff and leading ministry leaders to determine how they support that Mission/Vision)
People from these organizations have shown us several growing and dynamic Catholic parishes across the countries. They also pointed out three common denominators found in each of those parishes: (1) A Dynamic Sunday Experience, (2) Proven, Professional, Prayer- and Scripture-Based Leadership, (3) Discipleship Identification and Growth.
How did St. Monica measure up next to these dynamic, growing, vibrant faith communities? To determine this, two years ago the parish took the “Discipleship Maker Index” questionnaire offered by Catholic Leadership Institute. This instrument measures the spiritual, pastoral, liturgical and devotional health of the parish.
St. Monica scored well in “Scripture” and “Devotional Life.” The success of Walking with Purpose for our women was a key component in this higher score. We decided to focus on – and support this strength with further resources and initiatives. This led us to join with St. Norbert to introduce That Man Is You to our men and continue with Alpha to provide an introduction to the faith for people seeking a safe, non-judgmental “on-ramp” to people looking to ask questions.
We scored very low in “Outreach and Service to the Poor. We decided to do something about this. Bridget Cowell and Michelle Manning moved their “administrative charism” and energies from leading Walking With Purpose to take this initiative head-on to improve in this arena. We have seen impressive results in the short time they have been engaged.
We scored average in liturgy and music. Since the Eucharist is supposed to be the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, we felt that we needed to focus on the three components of “dynamic liturgy” (Namely Homily – Hymnody – Hospitality). A Hospitality Team was established. I put together a Liturgy Committee. I also decided to acquire a survey “kiosk” to intentionally determine whether our efforts were bearing fruit in the hearts of our people.
We have been encouraged by what we have seen. Efforts have borne fruit. It’s time to put some objective data on these observations to see how far the parish of St. Monica has come over the past two years. Thus I have asked Catholic Leadership Institute to help us run the ”Disciple Maker Index” again this Lenten Season. The survey tool will open electronically on Saturday, March 30 and run until Monday, April 22. Paper copies of the survey will be made available for those who do not have internet access or would prefer to fill out the survey manually. The results will give us the opportunity to reflect on the individual spiritual growth of our parishioners, provide insights in the parish strengths and opportunities for growth, and offer meaningful input is discerning how the Lord wishes the parish to proceed in the future.
I am excited about the prospects of finding out about our parish at a deeper level. Please pray about this with me. Fill out the survey once it opens.
Let me add one personal, favor…. We all know of friends, family members and parishioners who have become disengaged from the parish. Tell them about this! Let them know that I want to hear from them. Ensure them that their opinion counts and is important. Then give them the information and ask them to take the survey. The more input we get from ALL of our parishioners, the better we will be able to discern the truth about St. Monica, and the hope that this parish can be for our neighborhood and the wider world.
My hope is that you see this information as a positive step to lead our people to a deeper “Encounter With Christ – Through His Word, Through Liturgy and Through Reaching out and Serving Others.”