Sherry Weddell begins with a Catholic history lesson- refreshing our memory of war torn, anti-Catholic France in the 1600’s- reminding us how a handful of “intentional disciples” renewed the Church of their day. “As a group, they were remarkable for their diversity. Thousands were actively involved in the renewal, but the major figures included a cardinal, a bishop, three priests (including one who had grown up a peasant and spent time as a slave), two young widows with children, a Parisian housewife, a single woman, a professional soldier, and a shoemaker.”
How? “They were intentional disciples together…they were in mission together…they collaborated on a grand scale…they were present and future oriented…apostolic creativity was the new normal…they expected God to act…they were deeply prayerful… and they were faithful unto death.”
“Today the same group is recognized for including four canonized saints, two blesseds, one Doctor of the Church, and six founders of religious congregations.” What can we learn from them? The answer is found in the rest of the book. In a followup to her book Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, Sherry A. Weddell has edited this book: Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples, which is composed of chapters written by folks who have jumped on board as intentional disciples.Each chapter shares the intentional disciple’s experience in helping to create parishes filled with intentional disciples. This book is packed full of time-tested ideas- some old and some new- that will set a parish on fire! Such as ….re-imagining Parish Pastoral Councils, knocking on doors and praying with and for people, re-thinking Youth Ministry, fireside chats, and one of my favorites “The First 15”….”Each meeting at the parish begins by giving over to the Lord the first fifteen minutes for prayer and reflection on the coming Sunday readings…” Wow! Each and every meeting?
Implementing many of these ideas may feel awkward at first, but by trusting God to take the lead- in chapter after chapter- parish after parish is experiencing a dramatic renewal. Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples closes with a “Questions For Discussion” section that works its way through each chapter of the book, to assist us in deepening our understanding of our mission as an intentional disciple, and to help us to organize our plan for discipleship within our own parish and community.
Sherry explains: ” St. Vincent de Paul said it best: ‘So, our vocation is to go, not just to one parish, not just to one diocese, but all over the world; and to do what? To set people’s hearts on fire, to do what the Son of God did. He came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with His love. What do we have to desire but that it may burn and consume everything…It’s true, then, that I’m sent not only to love God but to make Him loved. It’s not enough for me to love God, if my neighbor doesn’t love Him.’ ”