Catholics in the Tioga and Tompkins County areas have gained dual benefits from Disciples in Mission: a deeper appreciation for Scriptures, and for fellow parishioners as well.
Disciples in Mission, a three-year program, strives to inspire and evangelize through an array of parish and family activities. Events are currently at their peak, with Lenten reflection groups nearing conclusion and parish reflection days set for April 6 at St. Patrick Church in Owego and Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca. The Owego gathering will bring together the six worship sites of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes, which are in their final year of Disciples in Mission. Meanwhile, Immaculate Conception Parish is in its second year.
The program’s overriding objective is for Catholics to deepen their own faith and then bring it to the community around them. A key means of reaching this goal is through Lenten faith-sharing groups — usually eight to 10 people in size — that discuss the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday, relating them to everyday experiences. Groups may meet in church, at a home or wherever else is convenient.
Mary Edsall-Golway, who serves as Disciples in Mission coordinator at Immaculate Conception, said 130 to 150 people have taken part in a total of 13 faith-sharing groups this Lent. She observed that participants absorb the lectionary readings three times: in preparation for the weekly meeting, during the meeting and at Mass the following Sunday.
“Each time you’re getting something additional out of it. It’s much more in-depth,” she said.
Ann Argetsinger, pastoral associate at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, added that “one of the best outcomes is that individual comfort levels in sharing faith with others has improved, and another is that the Disciples in Mission program has sparked a true desire for more Scripture study.”
“Everybody loves their groups. I had people saying, ‘I want the same group as last year.’ They’ve all said they just enjoy the give and take, the people sharing what their experiences have been,” Edsall-Golway added.
Involvement in Disciples in Mission is urged for people of all ages. Bob Hoag, leadership-team coordinator for Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, said that of the estimated 450 people who have taken part, approximately half are youths.
The six Tioga-area faith communities are St. Patrick along with the five Blessed Trinity Parish sites — St. Margaret Mary, Apalachin; St. John the Evangelist, Newark Valley; St. Francis, Catatonk; St. James, Waverly; and St. Pius X, Van Etten. Hoag described the Disciples in Mission experience as “a unifying thing, especially in our case with six churches. It’s been a fantastic experience, getting to know the other people in the other communities.” He credited the large number of parish staff and leadership-team members for bringing this about, saying that “they’ve really carried the ball. Without them it wouldn’t be possible to do it.”
Each annual cycle of Disciples in Mission begins with a parish prayer campaign and sign-up several weeks before Lent. Also included in the program are evangelization-related bulletin inserts; special reflections for teens; a family activities book that can be utilized at home for families who can’t commit to the weekly meetings; and a parish novena.
The yearly process culminates with parish reflection day, held during the Easter season to affirm existing ministries and create new ones to carry out the missionary priorities.
“We’re interested in soliciting discussion of where our parish is toward those goals — steps we might take to move farther along,” Edsall-Golway said.
As Disciples in Mission wraps up its three years at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, Hoag said that “hopefully, something that people got out of the program will benefit the parish in an evangelical way in the future. A lot of the real fruits of the program are going to come from this point on.”
Disciples in Mission was launched in 1996 by the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association, as a response to the United State bishops’ document “Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States.” The program, according to its Web site (www.disciplesinmission.org), has been used by more than 4.5 million Catholics in more than 3,400 parishes across the United States.
Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick and Immaculate Conception are the Rochester Diocese’s first Southern Tier parishes to implement the program, which strongly resembles the small Christian community model that arose from the diocesan Synod in 1993. Argetsinger further noted that Disciples in Mission draws comparison to the first-year diocesan spiritual-renewal program, “Spirit Alive!”
“We may flow nicely into (the spiritual renewal) from Disciples in Mission,” she said.