Another Sign of Hope

The fact that this fantastically good and important book…

Forming Intentional Disciples
The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus

HUNTINGTON, Indiana, August 14, 2012 — Over 10% of American adults are ex-Catholics. Only 30% of those who were raised Catholic are still practicing their faith.

To stem this tide, Sherry Weddell’s new book Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012), gives Catholics a renewed sense of spiritual direction.

This is clearly a time of immense challenge for the Church, but, according to Weddell, it is also an immense opportunity for Catholics to rebuild the Church.

Drawing upon 15 years’ experience with the Catherine of Siena Institute — which Weddell co-founded to equip parishes for training lay leaders — she guides readers through steps that help both Catholics and non-Catholics enter into a deep relationship with Jesus Christ in the midst of His Church.

“There is a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between the Church’s sophisticated theology … and the lived spiritual experience of the majority of its people,” Weddell says. “And this chasm has a name: Discipleship.”

Forming Intentional Disciples explores the five thresholds of postmodern conversion and how local parish leaders can guide others through the process. The five steps include: how to open a conversation about faith and belief, how to ask thought-provoking questions and establish an atmosphere of trust, when to tell the Great Story of Jesus, how to help someone respond to God’s call to intentional discipleship, and much more.

In Forming Intentional Disciples, readers will learn of places where conversion is active, and where the presence of many intentional disciples is beginning to change everything: spiritual tone, energy level, attendance, almsgiving, and what parishioners ask of their leaders. Because when life at the local parish level changes, the life of the whole Church changes with it.

….has already sold out its first printing and they are scrambling to produce more to keep up with demand. Really. Read it. Hugely important book.

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  • Thomas R

    “Only 30% of those who were raised Catholic are still practicing their faith.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s an exaggeration or at least needs explaining. I mean it might be true that the percent of people raised Catholic who still attend weekly-mass is 30%. But the percent who still attend mass some, and deem themselves Catholic, I think is more like 60-70%.

  • Sherry Weddell

    No Thomas, it is that low. Per Pew, CARA and a bunch of other surveys. Mass attendance in the 60’s was about 70%. But we haven’t seen that in 50 years. But today, those who attend weekly are actually much lower than 30% – at about 18% for all generations together – and the standard for “practicing” used by almost all dioceses is showing up at least once a month.

    Much depends upon your generation (the younger you are, the lower your attendance) and we have to remember that we”ve lost track of HUGE numbers of people who were, in CARA’s language, “Catholic at some point in their life.” For instance, Anglo Millennials 18 – 24 are 17 times more likely to leave the Church during those years than enter it. Millennial weekly attendance is somewhere between 10 – 15% and Gen Xers are about 15% as well. And they now make up over 50% of Catholics.

    Close to 40% of the baptized in the US are unknown to us: they have left or have moved and just haven’t registered or otherwise drawn themselves to our attention. Some have jettisoned the name Catholic altogether and others still think of themselves as “Catholic” but they feel no need to let the local parish or diocese know they are there. CARA estimates that there are nearly 97 million “Catholics at some point in their life” living in the US while the official Catholic Directory estimate is still about 65 million. 30+ million people is alot to lose “track” of.

    If we start from our own theological starting place – which is baptism rather than whether or not an individual will respond “Catholic” when asked by a surveyor what religion they are – we start to see our reality.

    Next time you see a baby being baptized or a child Confirmed, think about it: Chances are that 20 years from now, only 1 or 2 out of ten will be regularly joining you at Mass. The first chapter of my book lays it all out in great detail (although some of the data above has come out since I finished writing the book in January.)

    In the 21st century, God has no grandchildren. In the 21st century, we have to make disciples.

    • Thomas R

      Well I acknowledged that, but I meant it depends on terms. Far more than 30% of those raised Catholic still deem themselves Catholic. They don’t consider themselves to have abandoned the faith or joined another faith. By canon law I think they would still be deemed Catholic. Catholic retention rate in the US is higher than many mainline Protestant churches.

      If we mean “regular mass attendance” than yeah we likely get below 30% of those raised Catholics.

  • Joan


    What does this mean: If we start from our own theological starting place – which is baptism rather than whether or not an individual will respond “Catholic” when asked by a surveyor what religion they are – we start to see our reality.

    Don’t people become Catholic when they’re baptized in the church?

  • Irenist

    “.has already sold out its first printing and they are scrambling to produce more to keep up with demand. Really. Read it. Hugely important book.”

    Well, I would like to read this hugely important book, and see it available to more people between print runs. Is there any hope for a Kindle edition? I’d be grateful for it.

    • Sherry Weddell

      It is available in both Kindle and Nook e-book editions at this very moment.

      • Irenist

        Ah, so it is! I’ll download it when I get home. Thanks! (And congrats on the success of your book!)

        Sherry, is there any reason not to use this link to buy the Kindle edition?

        That is to say, is there another link that would send some of the profits to a worthy cause of some sort? I know some e-books support a parish if you order it through their website, e.g.

  • jeff

    What is the retention rate for children born into devout families? Do we have stats for those? It will be a lot higher than one in ten. (One in ten retention means that each family will need to have OVER 20 children EACH to make replacement. If that’s also the rate for devout families we are in deep, deep, deep trouble.)

    Sure, we shouldn’t judge the masses of indifferent and insipid mass goers but the fact is that you can’t run a Church by pandering to them. If for no other reason than that the children born to them will almost all apostatize, making them no use to us. Sound harsh? You bet.

    • Harsher still will be having it pointed out to us, on the Last Day, that were were no use to them.

      • Ah. That we were no use to them.

  • jeff

    To be viable we need to be retaining those born into the faith. Our culture is becoming more and more hostile each day to the Church. There is simply no way that we can off-set apostates with new converts (as welcome as each one is, and as important as it is to try to reach the lost….)

    • Sherry Weddell


      We don’t evangelize our generation to sustain an institution. We are to evangelize everyone because they are immortals, created and loved by God, redeemed and loved by the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ who became incarnate, lived, suffered, died, and was resurrected for their sake. If we love Him, we will love the ones he loves, If we love Him, we will do whatever it takes to seek out those he died to save. Those immortal beings will far outlast our institutions, our civilization, our debates, and our culture. Our earthly ecclesial institutions and civilization is as the life of a gnat by comparison.

      “It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
      – C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

  • Sherry Weddell


    Yes, babies are Catholic as soon as they are baptized. But many much publicized surveys only consider adults who, decades later, still answer “I am a Catholic”. For decades the official counts of Catholics in this country did not take in the huge numbers who had simply drifted away or never bothered to register. So we didn’t grasp our real situation. CARA has started to take the vast numbers of “missing” Catholic into account in its statistics. But other groups are still using the outdated 65 million figure.

  • Sherry Weddell

    Well, honestly, we’d much prefer that you buy the book from us ( because then we get
    a cut which supports our little flea-bitten non-profit that makes this all possible. But the only way to get a Kindle version is to deal with the Empire. If

    • Irenist

      So, go to and order the paperback. Got it. Looks like my initial discipleship task is to forgo some instant gratification through the Kindle! But if it supports your work, then it’s well worth it. Thanks for the info!

  • Ted Seeber

    I’m still fighting my whole internal autistic brain problem with “discipling” since that’s also the name of a brain-dead postmodernist cult method. I’ll probably get around to reading this book soon.

    The single thing I’ve noticed that keeps cradle catholics in the Church more than any other item, it seems to me, is getting them involved. Catholic Daughters, Knights of Columbus Squires, approaching your confirmation class to recruit for Eucharistic Extraordinary Ministers, that sort of thing.

    The real danger time for most cradle Catholics for falling away from the faith is age 17-28. Many return in their 30s and 40s. But if you don’t keep them engaged between 17-28, that’s the time you’ll lose them.

    I plan on making sure my son keeps attending weekly mass through those ages.

    • I think it’s younger than that really. Freshman/Sophmore year of highschool is where a lot of kids are just going through the motions of their confirmation classes so they can ‘graduate’ and never go to Mass again.

  • Sherry Weddell

    Disciple is one of the oldest Biblical terms for one who follows Jesus Christ in the midst of his Church and I won’t apologize for using it for a moment – regardless of what sect you had a bad experience with.

    We learned the hard way that loads of people are “active” in the Church with little or no spiritual motivation at all, Being active is not salvific by itself. A living personal faith and discipleship lived out in daily life, including being active in one’s parish can be salvific. (I have a whole chapter on the Church’s teaching on personal faith and sacramental grace in my book.) ONe of our ironies is that Catholics who become Protestant have a much high church attendance than Catholics who never leave – because their personal faith grows in a huge way – and in the 21st century, attendance goes up and down in direct correlation with the number of people who are certain they can have a personal relationship with God. If post modern people aren’t motivated from within, most won’t bother.