What’s up with the diocesan Vision?

Part 1: Clear Path to Discipleship

Megan Marley

Bishop Johnston and a Visioning Team from across the diocese came out with a vision statement and plan of action for the Diocese’s immediate future early this year. Under the vision of ‘One Family: Restored in Christ, Equipped for Mission’, there were three Priorities/areas of focus: Healing Our Family, Growing God’s Family, and Using Resources Wisely. A Holy Year of Renewal was also established as an invitation to live our Faith more fully.
So what’s happened since then?

Well, in addition to a variety of special Masses, processions, prayer aids and even a Eucharistic conference as part of the Holy Year, each of the three Priorities has specific goals to accomplish by certain deadlines, and working groups have and are being established to solve them.

Under the Priority of Healing Our Family, to tend wounds and accompany hearts to freedom in Christ, are two goals: to establish ‘Journey to Bethany’, a healing center to address a variety of wounds and broaden awareness of healing resources as a response to both the abuse scandal in the Church and other sufferings people bear; and implement ‘The Light is On for You’, a resource of Confession times available each day across the diocese throughout Lent.

The Priority of Using Resources Wisely has three main goals in aligning God’s gifts for the Church’s life and mission: implement gift and charism programs to activate Catholics for service and mission; create a comprehensive resource strategy; and establish a retreat center/camp facility within the diocese.

To activate our baptismal call to holiness and disciple-making, the Priority of Growing God’s Family has two main goals: craft a comprehensive youth to young adult initiative (including an earlier age for the reception of Confirmation); and implement the ‘Clear Path for Discipleship’ and hold a diocesan conference to equip all parishes to create a culture of discipleship.

Steps have been taken towards each of these Priorities and goals; a series of articles in the Catholic Key will share the working groups’ activities.

Part 1: Clear Path for Discipleship (Growing God’s Family)

The Clear Path for Discipleship is an accompaniment process to help parish leaders understand their current ministry situation, how to address the needs of people in every stage of faith development and to form missionary disciples. The process was originally developed by the Archdiocese of Omaha, and is adapted to our Diocese and parishes. It applies ideas from Sherry Weddell’s research in her book ‘Forming Intentional Disciples’, along with other sources on Missionary Discipleship.

Each parish has complete freedom to determine what works for them in the process, and what resources, programs and support level they’ll use.
“The discipleship process is tailored to the parish by parishioners,” said Dino Durando, Director of the diocesan Office of Domestic Church and Discipleship.

Once a parish pastor meets with a Clear Path facilitator, he assembles a team of staff, community leaders and active Catholics who will implement what they’ve learned in the parish and commit to team meetings.
“Ultimately it needs to be people who the pastor believes will see this integrated vision of it, and represent a variety of groups within the parish—young, old, parents, school families, ethnic groups, etc.” Durando said. “They’re going to be people who are doing—they’re doing active discipleship themselves within their own life…they’re going to implement in the various ministries and programs, plans, trainings for the sake of the parish.”

The team then attends ‘Base Camp’ to learn a common language for threshold stages of discipleship, how programs can support or fail certain stages of discipleship, leadership training and resources available for the parish to equip for evangelization.

“This isn’t a training on evangelization of people you don’t already know or don’t normally run into…thrust of this program is whether you’re in a formal ministry or not, everybody in your life is in one of these stages and understanding that that’s a real thing and the characteristics of that stage,” Durando continued.

He shared the Thresholds of Discipleship within four categories:

Relational Outreach: Pre-trust—the person has no connection with the Church and likely is hostile toward Catholicism; Trust—the person has a positive association with Jesus, Church or a Catholic; Curiosity—the person passively wants to know more about Jesus and His teachings;

Conversion Greenhouse: Openness—the person passively admits a need or desire for personal and spiritual change; Seeking—the person is actively on a spiritual quest to know God; Decision—the person decides to follow Jesus as an obedient disciple in the Church;

Transformational Growth: Beginning Disciple—the person starts turning from sin and desires to grow spiritually as a disciple of Jesus; Growing Disciple—the person grows in love of God and makes any sacrifice to live the Christian life;

Missional Teams: Commissioned Disciple—the person decides to answer the baptismal call to share the Good News; Disciple Maker—they have helped another commit their life to Jesus; Spiritual Multiplier—the person is equipped for lifelong Catholic mission and has a third generation of disciples.

A few parishes in the diocese have already piloted the Clear Path for Discipleship process, with more projected to participate over the following year, grouped according to deanery.

Durando said they’re starting on accompanying parishes in full force this Fall, with the goal to host a diocesan-wide ‘Amazing Parish’ Conference in October 2020 as a toolbox with additional leadership training, evangelization strategies, resources and more.

Fr. Albert Bruecken, OSB, pastor of St. Gregory Barbarigo in Maryville found the process to be eye opening.

“The big thing for me is my perception that we are on a maintenance model…we do the sacraments, get people baptized, confirmed, get them the Eucharist, Confession, get ‘em married and buried,” he said. “What we have not done is fostered in them a desire to share the faith.”

“What we have done is taught people about Jesus, but we have not witnessed to them personally what our relationship to Jesus is, how that relationship works, why it is significant…so the next generation leaves.”

“When you see something awesome, you want to share it with somebody,” he said. “The end of the Clear Path is to create disciple-makers and spiritual multipliers, people who effectively share their faith and mentor others along the road.”

St. John LaLande parish in Blue Springs has also gone through the process.

“The Clear Path shows you where your different programs are and, for me as a youth minister, what kids are in what group on the Clear Path; whether they’re at the beginning and they don’t know God at all yet, whether they’ve decided to commit to God, or if they’re ready to start making disciples,” said Sam Geringer, youth minister at St. John LaLande. “For me, it helps me to decide what kind of programming, what kind of events I need to do to help the kids—I can see where they are on the Clear Path and help minister to them.”

“I think it’s a good step in the right direction—there’s always work to be done, and it’ll take a while for people to become open to the idea of changing things…to take to the idea of discipleship and especially missionary discipleship,” he said. “But it’s good—I think the Base Camp information is stuff that every parishioner should know.”

For details on the Clear Path for Discipleship, stages of discipleship or the 2020 Amazing Parish Conference, visit discipleshipkc.org/clearpath. For more information on the diocesan Vision, visit kcsjcatholic.org/our-vision.


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Wednesday
November 20, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph