A few years back, Bob Hoag and his wife, Priscilla, were impressed with the hospitality extended to their foster child by youth-group members of St. Patrick Parish in Owego. This led the Hoags to become more interested in the Catholic Church; they ended up going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process and were welcomed into the church in 2004.
“I’ll tell you what it is. There’s evangelization right there — and they didn’t even know it,” Hoag said of the youth group.
Hoag, as well as many other folks in Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes, is now anxious to spread a similar evangelizing spirit throughout the Tioga County area — through a new program known as Disciples in Mission.
Numerous parishioners and staff members have formed a leadership team in recent months for Disciples in Mission, a three-year process that will be implemented during the upcoming Lenten season. Parishioner sign-ups will be held Jan. 28-29 and Feb. 4-5 after Masses at all six worship sites.
Disciples in Mission strives to inspire evangelization through special Sunday liturgies, small-group sharing and family activities. The chief goal is “to share our faith and draw others to Christ,” said Father William Moorby, pastor of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick, who has written several bulletin articles about Disciples in Mission in recent months.
Father Moorby added that the parish had been eyeing this program for quite some time.
“We were looking at ways to get people involved more in parish life, and get people going back who had fallen away and hadn’t accepted Jesus in their lives,” he said.
Disciples in Mission is marked by the following:
* Lenten faith-sharing groups of eight to 10 people who study the Sunday lectionary readings and relate them to everyday experiences. Groups may meet wherever is convenient — in church, at a home or elsewhere. They can include people of all ages. Father Moorby noted that a special emphasis is being placed on inviting teen participants.
* A family activities book, also geared toward reflection on the Scriptures, that can be utilized at home.
* Bulletin inserts related to evangelization.
* A parish reflection day during the Easter season to affirm existing ministries and create new ones so parishioners can carry out their missionary priorities.
* A parish novena on Pentecost Sunday, June 4.
This same basic cycle will be repeated during the program’s second and third years. Although the heaviest concentration occurs during Lent, Father Moorby said the effects can last year-round.
“We think it would be a great blessing for our parish, helping people draw closer to the Lord. They can really look at the Sunday lectionary and have it be more effective,” he said.
In a recent bulletin article, Father Moorby observed that Disciples in Mission fits the mission statement developed in 2004 by the Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parish pastoral council, which states in part, “Together we will build an atmosphere of faith in which the fruit of the Spirit will abound and draw others to Christ.”
Hoag said he got involved in Disciples in Mission because he feels Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick could stand to be more consistent with its evangelization efforts.
“I was thinking this is something that we, as Catholics, need to improve on. We tend to keep our faith to ourselves,” he said.
Disciples in Mission “will be a stepping out of comfort zones to join the small groups,” said Hoag, who coordinates the leadership team. He added that the willingness to participate will determine the program’s success: “The feedback we get will provide us with ideas to keep evangelization going.”
The leadership team is derived from all six of the Tioga-area worship sites: St. Patrick in Owego as well as the five Blessed Trinity churches — St. Margaret Mary, Apalachin; St. John the Evangelist, Newark Valley; St. Francis, Catatonk; St. James, Waverly; and St. Pius X, Van Etten. Remaining leadership-team representatives are: Tom Ambury; Marge Cummings; Ed Derenthal; Deacon Gary DiLallo; Joan Dizer; Father Boniface Ewah; Al Gillow; Frank Kamp; Alicia Loso; Anne McKenna; Hall Moore; Marion Rutan; Deacon Warren Rutan; Suzann Strauss; and Cindy Weiss.
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 in more than 2,000 parishes across the United States.
Sister of St. Joseph Karen Dietz, diocesan coordinator of sacramental catechesis, said that Disciples in Mission has been used by a limited number of parishes in the diocese. Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick is the first in the Southern Tier to implement the program, and she encourages other parishes to try it as well.
“I would love to see it take off,” Sister Dietz said. “The process used is familiar in that it involves small-group reflection and discussion. From our previous experience in a variety of ‘small Christian community’-type programs, the recruitment and training of volunteers happens more easily and the program itself is easily imagined. Parishes who have experience with small Christian communities may find this process a helpful extension.”