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Written by Sherry   
Monday, 17 September 2007 12:18
Interesting conversations and links this morning:

Over at Catholic Sensibility,

Todd (I assume although it was not signed)comments about the International Congress for the New Evangelization going on in Budapest right now.

Budapest Cardinal Peter Erdo’s three points:

In Budapest we saw that what was needed first of all was to deepen the faith, spirituality and missionary awareness of those who are already working in the parishes, that is, priests, religious, catechists and laypeople, those who are completely dedicated to parish service.

“Then in a second step we must get in contact with the whole parish community, also in a liturgical way.

“The third step is a gradual opening to the world. This opening up to the world is not just directed toward our immediate environment, our city, the quarter where we live and where many do not believe and do not know Christ’s message or have not been baptized; it is also a look at the whole world, the most distant continents, through the witness of those people — priests, religious, missionaries and laity — who have lived in those parts of the world.”

Todd writes:

This is worth some reflection. The cardinal suggests starting with parish staffs. I’m assuming a big part of point two is good liturgy. The third step is likely the stumbling block for many people. How does the local parish open up to the world? Is it through charity? Catholics do that pretty well, even though it’s often through a generous check and not so much the hands on approach. How well do you think our example as Catholics plays out in our “immediate environment”?

I wonder what our friends at Intentional Disciples think of this, and if they’ve participated in this event in the past?

Alas, your friends at Intentional Disciples have never been to the Congress or to Budapest (but are always open to invitations to visit Europe!) but we have been thinking, praying, and working on these questions a long time - and have started to see some real fruit at the parish level.

It was exactly this issue that gave birth to the Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles seminars that we have been offering since the summer of 2004. They were 4 or 5 day seminars intended to enable pastoral leaders at all levels from vicar generals to pastors, diocesan and parish staff and lay leaders to really grasp the big picture and it's implications. The Church's primary mission of evangelization and that the parish is the most natural and accessible place where the apostles, saints, and leaders of the 21st century can be challenged to intentional discipleship, formed as Christians and apostles, and helped to discern and live their God-given vocation(s) - most of which will take them outside the parish to the world.

It is very critical that the secular nature of the vast majority of lay vocation(s) and the critical nature of the secular mission of the Church be emphasized throughout. The stranglehold of the "intra-ecclesial maintenance is our mission paradigm" must be broken. When leaders "get" that we really are a community of over 1 billion apostles, anointed and gifted for mission, that the Church's primary mission is outward, not inward, and that the mission field of 99.8% of our apostles lies outside ecclesial structures, then things start to change.

The amazing thing is see that change take place. We witnessed over and over pastoral leaders leave MDEA who had gotten it and were passionately committed to making it happen. They went home and changed their own ministry priorities and started to change those of their parish. Mission, not maintenance was the order of the day - and the formation of people, not sustaining programs was the priority. Houses of lay formation were springing up around the country!

And this seems to be intensifying with complete reworking of MDEA that we did last winter/spring. The new Making Disciples (as we call it now)is completely focused upon the initial pastoral work of effectively challenging Catholics to intentional discipleship and includes some cutting edge practical tools that are unique in the Catholic world. Our first Making Disciples last month was the most successful that we have ever held and seems to have been very successful in enabling participants to make the necessary paradigm shift from institutional maintenance to evangelical mission. So it is happening but it doesn't happen accidentally.

As we say: Disciples don't happen. Apostles don't happen. Weeds happen!.

Disciples and apostles are the fruit of an intentional plan effort by the Christian community.

The Cardinal's third point about local mission vs. global mission is an interesting one. As anyone who reads ID on a regular basis knows, I write a lot about global Christianity and missions and its implications for Catholic pastoral practice. I come from a world where it was normal for lay men and women to be knowledgeable and passionate about missions, not just at a concrete and specific level (as in what is happening in a orphanage that you are supporting in Mexico) but at the macro level (such as the fact that Christianity is exploding in China and that thousands of Muslims around the world are becoming Christians, often in response to visions of Christ).

I very much appreciate the Cardinal's point but my experience is that cultivating an outward, mission focus of any kind among Catholics - whether toward their own neighborhood, city or state or toward people on the other side of the globe - requires a great deal of spiritual and intellectual energy because their imagination and experience usually has no category for it. Why that is remains a mystery to me - and of course, it isn't true for everyone. But after working directly with 32,000 Catholics in 80 dioceses, I'd have to say that it is true of the overwhelming majority.

The principle involved in communicating a new idea to adults remain the same: Always start with the concrete and move toward the universal. That's why discerning charisms can be such a catalyst in this area because it enables adults to mentally link concrete lived experience with the concept "God is really calling me to a mission because he gave me this gift" and then the great "AHA" follows and all the world looks new.

So I think we'll have to start at the level of the concrete for most people (and one's own neighborhood or city is great for that) and then expand to the global.
Because in this matter of building a culture of mission and vocation at the parish level, we are, for all practical purposes, at Ground Zero.

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