Formation, evangelization program gives boost to parishes

Friday, December 28, 2018 - Updated: 12:58 pm

By Bob De Witt Correspondent

One-third of the 57 parish groupings in the Diocese of Pittsburgh will receive a spiritual boost with the launch of an innovative formation and evangelization program.

A total of 18 groupings that include more than 60 parishes are participating through the School of Missionary Discipleship, according to Father Alexander Wroblicky, school administrator and associate director of the diocesan Department for Evangelization and Ministry Outreach.

The initiative is funded by sacrificial gifts to Our Campaign for The Church Alive!

“Teams were formed over the summer and about 80 leaders were trained in October,” Father Wroblicky said. “Some parish groupings plan to start as early as Lent.”

The School of Missionary Discipleship is an intensive process of spiritual and intellectual formation, consultation and training to help Catholics grow in the faith and lead others to Jesus. It has three phases:

• Ignite! lights the fire of revitalization in parishes, sparked by spiritual awakening experiences such as Alpha or ChristLife. Parishioners who find a new or renewed relationship with Jesus are invited to follow him as disciples, making their parishes more inviting and engaging through improved hospitality and outreach.

• On Fire! is an in-depth spiritual formation program to help followers discern their gifts and mission as disciples of Jesus.

• Equip! is a training program for specific volunteer leadership roles in parishes — including catechesis, evangelization, hospitality, pastoral care and social outreach — to support clergy and lay ecclesial ministers.

“We are called to be missionary disciples, but until you awaken or deepen a personal relationship with Christ, you’re probably not going to evangelize,” said Sue Ferguson, Alpha coordinator and pastoral council member at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Glenshaw.

A new round of Alpha sessions is underway at St. Mary, where more than 600 people have experienced Alpha over the past two years. About half joined small discipleship groups, and many have gotten involved in serving their parish and communities.

At St. Catherine of Sweden Parish in Hampton Township, Will Reaves, director of evangelization and intentional discipleship, is focused on making people feel welcome as they arrive for Mass.

“Ignite! shows that here is a community that’s centered on Jesus Christ,” he said. “On Fire! goes a little deeper, learning what it means to be a disciple.”

Modeled on Jesus’ example of formation and evangelization, the approach leads Catholics through four stages of spiritual growth: encountering Jesus, growing in faith, discerning their gifts and answering the call to bring others to Jesus.

To learn more, visit diopitt.org/smd or call 412-456-3156.

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