Forming Intentional Disciples The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus Weddell

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Title: Forming Intentional Disciples The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus

Author: Sherry Weddell

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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.



God has no grandchildren

  • " In the 21st century, cultural Catholicism is dead as a retention strategy, because God has no grandchildren. In the 21st century, we have to foster intentional Catholicism rather than cultural Catholicism.
  • "the majority of American adults who change from their childhood faith do so in a series of steps rather than an single giant leap... All of the evidence is that people feel dissatisfied and consider leaving for a coupe of years before actually taking the first step, and the majority pass through two or three religions changes before settling into a new spiritual home. In other words, changes of faith are, for most peopla, a journey and a search, not an instant simple, and painless abandonment of belief."
  • Who is looking?
    • those who were raised without a faith and are exploring their options.
    • Those who have left their childhood faith but haven't found the right faith yet.
    • The millions of "religious unaffiliated" who know religion is important, pray regularly, and wanter in and out of our congregations.
    • Catholics who have left the faith but have not yet adopted another rleigions identity and are searching.
    • Dissatisfied Catholics who haven't left but are considering doing so.
  • These people are already seeking. Our job is to reach out deliberately and intentionally to help them to find the pearl of great price.

It's all about Relationship

  • "Nearly a third of self-identified Catholics believe in an impersonal God.
  • Mass attendance is always Iower than, and goes up and down with, the percentage of those who are certain that it is possible to have a personal

relationship with God.

  • The majority of Catholics in the United States are sacramentalized bu not evangelized. They do not know that an explicit, personal

attachment to Christ - personal discipleship - is normative Catholicism as taught by the apostles and reiterated time and time again by the popes, councils, and saints of the Church.

We Don't Know What Normal Is

  • he would focus on making disciples of the unbaptized and apostles of the baptized. To do that, he had to introduce a core of his committed parishioners to ideas that were rather new.


  • Certain words pepper the Lineamenta: disciple, personal, encounter, change, missionary, experience, transmit, proclaim, ]esus, live, and Gospel. It is equally telling that the phrase Catholic identity is nowhere to be found.
  • The emphasis on transmit is crucial, because transmitting the faith is an organic, whole-person, whole-life concept

that goes far beyond instruction in facts or doctrines

  • Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time the conditions for this personal encounter

of individuals with Jesus Christ. The faith encounter with the person of Jesus Christ is a relationship with him, "remembering him" (in the Eucharist) and, through the grace of the Spirit, having in us the mind of Jesus Christ.

  • Genuine Catholic identity flows from the experience of discipleship
  • we can't successfully transmit the relationship at the center of the faith unless we ourselves consciously participate in that



  • Normative Catholicism involves three concurrent spiritual journeys that, in practice, are often treated as separate:
    1. The personal interior journey of a lived relationship with Christ resulting in intentional discipleship.
    2. The ecclesial journey into the Church through reception of the sacraments of initiation.
    3. The journey of active practice (as evidenced by receiving the sacraments, attending Mass, and participating in the life and mission of the Christian community)


  • Catholics have come to regard it as normal and deeply Catholic to not talk about the first journey - their relationship with God - except in confession or spiritual direction.
  • many Catholics don't even know that this personal, interior journey exists.
  • many Catholics don't even know that this personal, interior journey exists.
  • It is essential for us to grasp that the cultural pressure, both inside and outside the average American parish, is often against the overt expression

of discipleship. The two overlapping cultural norms - one secular and one ecclesial -

  • Our Vision - That we would be a Catholic community that nurtures the faith and gifts of lay Catholics, enabling them to become effective, committed disciples of Jesus Christ who have discerned and are living out their God-given mission in life.
  • Our Values
    1. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to have a living, growing love relationship with God.
    2. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to be excited Christian activists.
    3. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to be knowledgeable about their faith, the Scriptures, the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church, and the history of the Church.
    4. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to know what their charisms of service are and to be using them effectively in the fulfillment of their vocation or call in life.
    5. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to know that they have a vocation/mission in life (primarily in the secular world) given to them by God. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to be actively engaged in discerning and living this vocation.
    6. It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to have the fellowship of other committed lay Catholics available to them, to encourage, nurture, and discern as they attempt to follow Jesus.
    7. It is NORMAL for the local parish to function consciously as a house of formation for lay Catholics, which enables and empowers lay Catholics to do #1-6 above.


  • Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11)
  • Simon Peter's "drop the net" decision is what we mean by "intentional." From the moment he dropped his nets to follow Jesus, he was a disciple
  • A disciple's primary motivation comes from within, out of a Holy Spirit-given "hunger and thirst for righteousness." All things serve and flow from the central thing: the worship and love of the Blessed Trinity with one's whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and therefore the love of one's neighbor as oneself
  • discipleship begins when "adult persons at last have the occasion to hear the kerygma, renew their own baptism, consciously choose Christ as their own personal Lord and Savior, and commit themselves actively in the life of their Church."
  • kerygma is the Greek term referring to the preaching or proclamation of the basic outline of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • Kerygma is what Pope John Paul II described as "the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith."


  • Infant vs. Adult paradigm
  • When we act as though the experience of conversion is rare rather than normative, we are operating out of the infant paradigm. We are operating out of that paradigm whenever we do not explicitly challenge teen and adult Catholics to become intentional disciples.
  • Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us. (Pope Benedict)

CHAPTER 3 The Fruit of Discipleship

  • A parish like Christ the King highlights what is at stake in our present failure to foster the discipleship of all the baptized. Many things lie in the balance, but certainly these four:
    1. The eternal happiness in God - the salvation - of every human being.
    2. The complete fruition of the Mass and the sacraments.
    3. The next generation of Catholic leaders, saints, and apostles: priestly, religious, and secular.
    4. The fulfillment of the Church's mission on earth.
  • ... the parish motto: "Being a Beacon of Christ's Love"
  • Today I cannot begin to count the number of Sacred Heart parishioners who have told me that their lives were dramatically changed by going through their Evangelization Retreat.
  • In pursuit of that goal, new and often nontraditional ministries have formed. A healing prayer team formed made up of people who had discerned charisms of intercessory prayer and healing. After being trained in healing prayer, they now pray for parishioners at Sacred Heart and other parishes. Carol says that incredible healings have occurred - physical, emotional, and spiritual. Other new ministries include In-Touch Ministry (telephoning parishioners just to "keep in touch"), English for Immigrants, No-One Dies Alone, Celebrate Recovery, and Dominican Overseas Education & Relief Service in Central America.


  • The presence of a significant number of disciples changes everything
  • Disciples love the Church and serve her with energy and joy. Disciples give lavishly. Disciples hunger to learn more about their faith. Disciples fill every formation class in a parish or diocese. Disciples manifest charisms and discern vocations. They clamor to discern God's call because they long to live it. Disciples evangelize because they have really good news to share. Disciples share their faith with their children. Disciples care about the poor and about issues of justice. Disciples take risks for the Kingdom of God.
  • The Holy Spirit is planting charisms and vocations of amazing diversity in the hearts of all his people. Like the graces of the sacraments, they are real, but they are not magic
  • The Church fulfills her mission when she guides every member of the faithful to discover and live his or her own vocation in freedom and to bring it to fulfillment in charity
  • Governance is one of the three munera, or tasks, of the ministerial priesthood: teaching, sanctifying, and governing.


  • And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

(Ephesians 4:11-13)


  • No matter how many institutions we sustain or how much activity goes on in our parish or diocese, if new intentional disciples are not regularly emerging in our midst, our ministry is not bearing its most essential fruit

The Heart of Vocation

  • In the Catholic tradition, the word vocation is not a synonym for ecclesial career. A vocation is a supernatural mystery that emerges from a sustained encounter with Christ. It is a transforming, sanctifying path and work of love to which Christ calls us. A vocation builds on our natural qualities but carries us far beyond what we would imagine.
  • "Simon, the fisherman, before his meeting with Christ, how ever thoroughly he might have searched within himself, could not possibly have found a trace of Peter." (Hans Urs von Balthasar)
  • Discipleship is the necessary seedbed without which Christian vocations of any kind cannot germinate and grow. Vocational discernment must be rooted in a rich and deep conversation among fellow disciples.
  • Called & Gifted process in order to become more aware of the presence of charisms in their lives and of the communal charisms of the communities


  • A charism is "a favor" or (in St.Thomas Aquinas's terminology) a "gratuitous grace" given to a member of the body of Christ to empower him or her to build up the Church and to witness Christ to the world. Charisms are supernaturally empowered ways in which God's mercy, love, healing, truth, beauty, and provision will reach others through us. Most importantly, charisms, unlike natural talents or skills, can never be kept to ourselves or used deliberately for evil.
  • charisms tend to show up at the mysterious intersection where the Church and the world cry out to God in need and a disciple takes up his or her call to follow Jesus
  • If we focus on making disciples and equipping apostles first, the rest will follow. We won't have to worry about our institutional gaps. The disciples and apostles we form today will found and sustain our institutions and structures tomorrow, and the Holy Spirit will gift and inspire them to do things that we have never dreamed of What we are called to do is to truly see and then make disciples of the anointed ones who are wandering in and out of our parishes right now.

Chapter 4 Thresholds of conversion: can I trust you?

The second threshold: curiosity

The third threshold: openness

Thresholds of conversion: seeking and intentional discipleship

Break the silence

Do tell: the great story of Jesus

Personally encountering Jesus in his church

Expect conversion.

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