With the major activities from its first year now completed, the Disciples in Mission program at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes has yielded many positive results — and the awareness that there’s still work to be done.
Disciples In Mission, a three-year process that strives to inspire parishes toward evangelization, began with small-group meetings and home reflection during Lent. More recently, a parish reflection day took place May 13 at St. Margaret Mary Church in Apalachin, where 65 people gathered to affirm existing ministries and explore the possibility of new ones.
The three-hour session pooled representatives from the six Tioga County-area faith communities: St. Patrick, Owego; St. Margaret Mary, Apalachin; St. John the Evangelist, Newark Valley; St. Francis, Catatonk; St. James, Waverly; and St. Pius X, Van Etten. Participants focused on “what we’re doing right, what we need to do more of, what we need to improve on. It was almost like a town meeting,” said Bob Hoag, leadership-team coordinator for Disciples in Mission.
Hoag said participants noted many positive elements of parish life at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, such as prayer groups, prayer chains, retreats, dinners, special ministries, a teaching Mass, St. Patrick’s School in Owego and Living Stations of the Cross. Another plus was the Disciples in Mission program itself: Father William Moorby, pastor of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, said the concept of gathering for Scripture study and prayer proved successful during Lent.
“People really had a very positive experience being in the small groups, and some of them have continued on,” Father Moorby said. Each Lenten group comprised eight to 10 people who studied the Sunday lectionary readings and related them to everyday experiences.
Ideally, Hoag said, small groups can convene without regard to which of the six faith communities their members represent. People were intentionally blended this way at the parish reflection day; in many cases, Hoag said, “I had no idea where they were from. But it felt like one group.”
In regard to evangelization, some of the ideas raised May 13 were to establish chat rooms on the Internet; do follow-up with new members; invite, encourage and welcome all people; and reach out to children, young adults, and parents of children. Hoag said these types of outreach are badly needed.
“I don’t think our church, the Catholic Church, we’re welcoming enough,” he commented. “It tends to be a fairly private religion.”
Meanwhile, Father Moorby observed that reflection-day participants admitted they could stand “more confidence to be able to share their faith with others. That came through as a need.”
Hoag and Frank Kamp, evangelization coordinator for Disciples in Mission, are now drawing up parish profiles based on feedback from the May 13 gathering. “It wasn’t meant to be a day to come to conclusion on things, but to reflect on material we have received,” Father Moorby said.
Overall, Father Moorby said he is quite happy with the first year of Disciples in Mission, in which hundreds of people have taken part.
“People have had very good experiences, and we reach out to the people that didn’t do it this year,” he said, noting that nonparticipants can still become involved next Lent when the program reconvenes.
Disciples in Mission was launched in 1996 by the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association. It has been used in more than 2,000 parishes across the United States, including some in this diocese. Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick is the first in the Southern Tier to implement the program.