God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 53.
One of the keys to parish renewal, to changing the culture of a parish, and to making missionary disciples in a parish is having clear pathways of discipleship through which people can move and be nourished in their journey into closer relationship with Jesus. Having a clear pathway of discipleship allows the parish to ensure that they are offering something that actually meets those coming to their parish where they are and helps them to move closer to Jesus.
What is presented here are some things to keep in mind when planning a pathway of discipleship for a parish. Also presented are links to some resources and programs that can be used as tools in a pathway of discipleship. Remember, though, that the emphasis needs to remain on helping people get closer to Jesus, not on the programs themselves. Our focus is people not programs.
To have a clear Pathway of Discipleship, a parish should have something regularly available in each of the stages listed below that is actually helping move individuals through the Thresholds of Conversion.
Pre-requisite: Importance of Accompaniment
Merely having programs in place that meet people at each threshold is not enough. People need to be accompanied through the Thresholds of Conversion by people who have made the journey themselves. If setting up a Pathway of Discipleship, how are you making sure that people are being accompanied in their journey?
Stage I: Pre-Evangelization
While much of the work of pre-evangelization will not happen at the parish, the importance of pre-evangelization cannot be stressed enough. The two main keys here are:
- Building Bridges of Trust: Does the person we are working with trust God? Trust the Church? Trust me? Could that person trust me? Have I done anything, or could I do anything to earn that trust? Have I ever just listened to them?
- Removing Obstacles: Is there something standing in the way of this person trusting God, the Church, or me? Is it a misconception? A fear of rejection or being judged? Some hurt from their past? Am I the one being called to help remove this obstacle? If so, in what way am I being called to help remove this obstacle? Is there a way of trying to remove the obstacle that would actually make the situation worse?
Stage II: Evangelization
Once there is trust and obstacles have been removed, people need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. They need to hear the kerygma, and they need to know why it matters in their life. They need to be evangelized. This should be happening in homilies, in meetings, in classes, in individual conversations, and in everything that happens in the parish. It would also be good to have in place programs that are run regularly to help people encounter Jesus in the proclamation of the Good News. Below are some First Step Processes, Retreats, and Parish Missions that focus especially on proclaiming the Good News. While it would be good, if a parish could support it, to have one program from each of the categories running regularly (i.e., one First Step Process, one retreat, and one parish mission), smaller parishes may wish to start with just one of these. Our recommendation in that case is to start with Sycamore.
First Step Processes, Evangelization Retreats, and Parish Missions
- First Step Processes
- Sycamore – This is First Step Process that we recommend for parishes that do not already have something in place. The resources are free, and it is adaptable to different situations and provides material for training your team and planning your efforts.
- The Search – available on FORMED, supplemental materials available here
- Discovering Christ from ChristLife
- Evangelization Retreats
- Welcome (formerly Christ Renews His Parish) – This is the retreat we recommend for parishes that do not already have something in place.
- Great Story of Jesus – This one-day retreat is part of the Ananias Training, but it can be separated out and used independently as a means of evangelizing. With the Leader’s Guide and some experience, it is very easy to put on and does not require a large team.
- Parish Missions
- The 99 – If you want a program instead of a live speaker, this is the parish mission program that we recommend. The program includes training for a team to put the mission on and the option for follow-up small groups.
- The other option is to find and invite a good Mission speaker who will focus on the kerygma.
Stage III: Catechesis and Discipleship Formation
We are living in a time where there are great resources available for catechesis and learning about the Faith. Some of the main ones are listed below. Keep in mind, though, that these resources will be much more effective if Pre-Evangelization and Evangelization have been done first. Merely getting a subscription to FORMED, for example, will not make missionary disciples.
Keep in mind also that learning about the Faith is just one aspect of a life of discipleship. A life of discipleship is about becoming firmly rooted in Jesus Christ and following where He leads, so besides learning about Jesus and the Faith, disciples must develop rich prayer and sacramental lives lived in communion with other disciples. How is your parish going to support this growth?
Stage IV: Equipping Disciples as Missionary Disciples
As disciples are called into sharing the Good News of Jesus with others, there are certain tools that are helpful in equipping them for this task and for helping to see how the Holy Spirit has already equipped them. Some of the preferred means of equipping missionary disciples are listed here:
- Catechetical Institute of Franciscan University of Steubenville – The Diocese of Pueblo has a partnership with the Catechetical Institute, and the workshops they have for participating parishes or individuals are a preferred means for equipping people in our diocese in any area of catechesis (children’s religious ed., youth ministry, adult faith formation, RCIA, etc.). Click here to go to the landing page for our diocese on their website.
- St. John Bosco Conference for catechists, youth ministers, DREs, etc.
- Ananias Training – Equip your parishioners to accompany others on their journey to a closer relationship with Jesus. It is our hope that each parish will be regularly holding Ananias Trainings to give its parishioners the skills they need to accompany others. Parishes could also team up with each other to make Ananias Training available regularly in an area.
- Making Disciples 101, 201, 301 – Week-long workshops on how to make disciples.
- Called and Gifted – workshops to help people learn to discern the spiritual gifts they have been given by God to bring others to Him
- Making Missionary Disciples Track at SLS and SEEK – Be equipped with skills for making disciples in your parish by looking at how to apply the model used by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) in a parish setting.
- Resources – links coming soon