Monday, February 20, 2017 - Updated: 4:00 am
Four neighboring parishes have come together to get to know one another, grow in their relationship with Jesus and learn how to share his love.
Members of St. Bonaventure, St. Sebastian and St. Teresa of Avila parishes invited St. Athanasius Parish to take part in a program they had presented separately, ChristLife, which helps Catholics personally encounter Jesus, follow him and tell others about him.
“We can’t wait to begin evangelizing. The time to start is now,” said volunteer Paul Kersting of St. Sebastian Parish in Ross Township, referring to many parishes coming together in the future as part of the On Mission for The Church Alive! planning initiative. “We need to pool our resources and get to know one another.”
ChristLife has three cycles, each lasting seven weeks. The first part, Discovering Christ, encourages people to enter into or renew a personal relationship with the Lord. The second sequence, Following Christ, helps to strengthen their relationship with Jesus. The third series, Sharing Christ, equips them to tell others about Jesus.
After receiving support from their pastors, organizers formed multi-parish teams to plan and present Discovering Christ. All expenses are shared equally by the parishes, and there is no direct cost to the 120 participants, who are supported by 51 volunteers. They gather for dinner, songs and prayer, a video presentation and personal sharing in small groups.
“It’s been fabulous,” said Judy Dulemba of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Perrysville, which is hosting Discovering Christ. “Our group is very cohesive, and people are not afraid to share.”
Dulemba’s pastor, Father Bob Vular, is enthusiastic about the program and the parishes working together.
“This really helps the faithful be prepared for the evangelization we need to spread,” he said. “The response so far is excellent. People are embracing it.”
“I’ve already seen the spiritual energy in these other parishes,” said St. Athanasius parishioner Lori Walter. “We need a safe place to talk about God and continue to deepen our faith. ChristLife gives us the ability to do both.”
“The ‘wow’ moment for me was seeing 48 people from our parish,” said Lou Locante of St. Athanasius. “Our parishes working together is a preview of things to come.”
Volunteer John Mikulan, who took part in Discovering Christ in 2015 at St. Bonaventure Parish in Glenshaw, said he has formed strong friendships with others from his group.
“ChristLife has made me a much better person,” he said. “I surrendered to Jesus and could feel his warmth and grace come over me.”
“I had signed up with my husband,” said Betty Kubala of St. Bonaventure, who now serves dinner for participants. “It’s really helped our relationship, sharing our faith together.”
The Following Christ series is set to begin in April for participants in the first program, and Sharing Christ will be offered starting in September. The parishes will take turns providing hospitality.
“I love seeing our four parishes coming together,” Dulemba said. “Going through the On Mission planning is difficult at times, but ultimately we’re one Catholic family.”
To learn more about On Mission for The Church Alive! visit OnMissionChurchAlive.org.