Even those who love their Catholic faith sometimes feel ill-prepared to share it with others — to be part of this “New Evangelization” that church leaders from Pope Francis on down are always talking about.
How do you begin those conversations? What can you say that might reach the postmodern mind?
Those are some of the questions the Catherine of Siena Institute and its co-founder Sherry Weddell have set out to answer, and Weddell will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Diocesan Assembly Oct. 8 at Marshall School in Duluth.
Liz Hoefferle, diocesan director of religious education, said one reason for inviting Weddell is “hoping to see that we become better equipped in our efforts in the New Evangelization,” in a variety of areas, even in catechesis.
Another term the institute is known for is “intentional discipleship.” Weddell’s popular book “Forming Intentional Disciples” begins with the stark recognition that many lay Catholics, even lay Catholic leaders, by their own admission don’t have a “lived relationship with God,” or in other words do not live as disciples in any active sense.
“A disciple is one who follows Christ,” Hoefferle explained. “… It takes a conscious effort to make that decision to follow Christ.” And it’s something different from just receiving the sacraments of initiation.
Hoefferle said she hopes this year’s conference will help “lay people see their calling in the church and to live out their baptismal call” — the “universal call to holiness” emphasized by the Second Vatican Council.
For the past several years, diocesan religious education has been following a “win-build-send” model of forming disciples, seeking first to introduce people to God, then to build their faith and finally to send them out into the world to win more disciples for Christ.
Hoefferle said an “equip” step before sending people out to make disciples is also necessary, because even faithful, practicing Catholics “don’t always feel equipped to share that with others.” That’s where the Catherine of Siena Institute comes in.
“What they offer is a good fit for what we’re trying to do,” she said.
She said the talks will include discussion of how to discern the different stages or “thresholds” of where people we encounter are on their path to intentional discipleship — and how to engage and help them progress on that path.
It will also include “case studies” from the lives of the saints showing that it is a call for everyone.
Weddell will also be presenting at the Clergy Conference before the Diocesan Assembly, giving pastors some insights as they try to implement these ideas in their parishes.
As usual, the assembly is open to all, and Hoefferle said it’s not necessary to have read “Forming Intentional Disciples” beforehand, but it might be helpful to get the most out of the event.
The assembly runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes the vigil Mass with Bishop Paul Sirba, as well as continental breakfast, lunch and participant materials. The registration deadline is Sept. 26. Visit www.dioceseduluth.org for pricing and online registration.
— Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross