The Importance of Forming Disciples

Dear Friends in Christ:

This weekend after each of our Masses we will have registration for our Religious Education program for our school children and youth. This is vital and absolutely essential to our Church and to the youth. Jesus commanded us in his last moment before ascending to the Father to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you!” (Mt 28:19-20) This obligation is indeed a serious one that cannot be taken lightly. While serious, it is also a joy and a delight to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. I have been reading a number of studies on religion in America. I stand amazed at three things: 1.) How much negativity, hostility and ignorance there is in our society towards Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. 2.) All of the demonstrable positive effects that a lived faith has in the life of persons, families and society. 3.) How the absence of religion and a lived faith has demonstrably so many negative results in one’s life and well-being. In other words, life is simply better and happier with God!

As part of my summer reading, I read a sociological study entitled, Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church. The study shows what most of us know; there are very serious and real problems. At the same time the research, which was done over a decade, also shows that there are absolutely identifiable factors that when present have a positive impact which result in Catholics remaining faithful and connected to the Church. In its conclusion the study states: Most crucial are the commitment, intentionality, examples, and encouragement of Catholic parents. In most cases, parents with their own lives and practices set the standards of faith and practice that determines what their children may achieve or approximate. Beyond parents and in a few cases substituting for parents, other Catholic adult role models and mentors – grandparents, family members, friends, uncles and aunts and so on – also make a big difference in the religious and spiritual lives of Catholic youth… Committed and practicing Catholic emerging adults are people who were well formed in the Catholic Faith as children, whose faith became personally meaningful and practiced as teenagers and whose parents (reinforced by other supportive Catholic adults) were the primary agents cultivating that life long formation.

Over the last few years, I have challenged our Youth Formation staff to identify and work on some of these very same factors. One of the factors that I have specifically challenged our staff and our catechists with is to have every child be personally known by at least five adults in the parish! How many children in our parish do you know? Can you name five SJV kids? Can your children name five adults here in the parish that they really know? How many of our children and youth know you? Relationships and connections are essential to living the faith. Do you know five other families here in the parish? How many other things do you do or participate in besides Sunday Mass here in the parish? Sometimes Catholics treat Church like a service station, convenience store or fast food joint. We rush in, grab something and hit the road! Then we wonder why we have indigestion, paid too much and had an unsatisfying experience. Church is not like any of those things. The Church is a family. We need to spend time with each other. We need to know each other. We have to do things together. For these elements there is no substitute. This is a challenge to all of us – but it is a good one that will have wonderful results!

Remember ~ Living Faith, Changing Lives, Making a Difference!

In pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately