I've been a bit busy with other commitments and writing projects, so my blogging has suffered of late. But I wanted to briefly note the arrival of a new blog--Intentional Disciples--that is sponsored by the Catherine of Sienna Institute. The Institute is a program of the Western Dominican Province and is dedicated to equipping parishes for the formation of lay Catholics for their mission in the world. You may have encountered the "Called and Gifted Workshops" that the Institute has presented in many parishes around the country.
One of the co-directors of the CSI is a woman named Sherry Weddell, who entered Catholicism from evangelical Christianity. I would describe her as a "bridge builder," someone who is deeply Catholic but also committed to preserving the best parts of her evangelical heritage. One of the reasons I like Sherry is that she asks questions that make me uncomfortable:
At every Making Disciplesseminar, we ask, What percentage of your parishioners would youconsider intentional disciples? Since participants are pastors, parishstaff and leaders from dioceses all over North America and elsewhere,this always produces vigorous discussion and fascinating responses.Usually we discover that no one present has ever thought about thisparticular question before and it takes some wrestling to become clearabout what is being asked. What do we mean by the term intentionaldisciple? Is an intentional disciple the same as a practicingCatholic? How would you recognize someone as an intentional disciple?
Andthen the educated guesses begin: Five percent? Ten percent? The highestestimate so far came from members of a tiny parish with 350 members whoestimated 30% of their members would qualify. The grimmest assessmentcame from a west coast-based group of leaders who together came up witha startling ballpark figure: that probably less than 1-2% of theirparishioners were intentional disciples of Jesus Christ! They allworked at big, extremely active parishes. And yet, the fact that mostmembers of their parishes were not yet disciples had escaped them untilthat moment.
Over the past 10 years, I have workedwith hundreds of parishes in 70 dioceses and I can only think of acouple that I wouldnt call busy. Most appear to be busy seven days aweek. Every inch of available time and space is filled with people andprograms and yet parish leaders seldom ask, "What is the real, personaland spiritual impact of our busyness? Are we changing the lives ofpeople? We energetically move people through institutions and programsbut suddenly freeze when it is time to evaluate what is the actualspiritual impact of our efforts.
Like I said, questions that make you uncomfortable. In a good way.
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