"Big Four" Highlights


Faith Fully Alive

Catholicism is more exciting than just checking in on Sunday

The Gospel of Matthew concludes with the Apostles going to a mountain in Galilee, seeing Jesus, worshipping him, yet still doubting. Despite the faint-hearted faith of his closest followers, Christ commissioned them to go and “make disciples of all nations” by baptizing and “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” with an assurance that he would be with them “always, until the end of the age” (cf. Matt 28:16-20).

Such learning and leadership, both rooted in constantly listening to the Lord, have been the universal standard for all Christian discipleship since the earliest days of the Church. It also serves as an urgent call today. In Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples (Our Sunday Visitor), Sherry Weddell leads a team of six authors who help parish communities design practical approaches to transform and equip leaders and disciples. From intercessory prayer and youth ministry to forming a culture of intentional discipleship, Weddell and her collaborators cover it all in an effort to invigorate parish evangelization.

Weddell, co-founder and international co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, took time during her travels to talk with FFG associate editor Jason Godin about the book.

Fathers for Good: Discuss the latest work of the Catherine of Siena Institute.

Sherry Weddell: Collaboration between the clergy and the laity has always been central to our work. Our mission is still the same: to equip parishes to form lay apostles, what Pope Francis calls “missionary disciples.” What has changed is how we approach our mission these days now that we realize that so many Catholics – even active Catholics – are not yet consciously seeking to follow Jesus as his disciples, so they aren’t ready to be “sent” as apostles.

We have spent a lot of time over the past 10 years training thousands of parish and diocesan leaders at all levels to effectively call Catholics to begin consciously following Jesus as his disciple in the midst of his Church, and how to create a normative culture of intentional discipleship at the parish level. Thank God, we are blessed to have a whole network of traveling teachers and regional collaborators working with us. So far, we have worked directly with over 100,000 Catholics in well over 500 parishes in 130 dioceses and 11 countries.

FFG: How can families help break the “culture of silence” about their faith?

Weddell: The “culture of silence” is the working assumption that many cradle Catholics have picked up that says you shouldn’t talk about your personal faith or relationship with God. If you talked about it too much, you were acting like a Protestant, “showing off,” pretending to be a saint or doing something that only priests and religious are supposed to do. The first step in a family, in a parish, anywhere – is to break the silence around the topic of discipleship. Fathers have such a huge impact when they talk naturally and readily about their relationship with Jesus Christ and their discipleship and live it out in compelling ways.

FFG: What are steps that fathers can take in helping their family members become intentional disciples?

Weddell: First, you have to live your faith as a Catholic disciple authentically, lovingly, consistently and joyfully as possible in order to earn the right to talk. Attend Mass regularly with your family. Pray, and let them see you pray. Focus first on building bridges of trust through loving service and kindness that will later give you the right to talk.

When trust has been built, look for a good opportunity to ask your wife or child to share the story of their own relationship with God, whatever it has been, and listen closely just to understand what it has been like for them. Not to fix them, correct them or even catechize them at that moment, but simply to understand where they are and where you might be able to connect with their experience.

Then pray for opportunities to talk about Jesus and your own relationship with him in simple, non-threatening, but real ways. Share your personal story of what it has meant to walk with Jesus in the center of his Church with your wife, children and other family members. Find ways to expose your family to Jesus’ own Great Story which is at the heart of our Catholic faith.

Visit Our Sunday Visitor to learn more about Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples.