By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Paul the Apostle Parish is on a mission. That mission is to be disciples at a new level.
Michelle Herrington, director of parish life, said during the past two years the parish leadership team has been focused on what it means to be an intentional disciple and how to help other people become disciples.
“This past Easter season parish leadership introduced a Discipleship Launch in an effort to make this mission more visible to parishioners,” Herrington said. She is joined by Michael and Tasha Havercamp, directors of evangelization and mission at the parish, to spread the word.
The discipleship process has four stages of spiritual journey: live, learn, love and launch. “We are helping people see their role in the mission of the church,” Michael Havercamp added.
Herrington said that this discipleship process can be imagined as a baseball diamond where each stage is a base. “You need to touch all the bases to score and not just stay on one base.”
Loving Jesus means having a personal encounter with him. Learning to be a disciple means developing habits of the heart and head to ensure growth. Examples include prayer and reading Scripture and participating in small faith groups. Living involves discerning one’s unique role in helping bring about the Kingdom of God. What gifts do you have? What role is God calling you to do? Finally, to launch is to go into the world to spread the Gospel and serve others.
One initiative associated with the Discipleship Launch was a redesign of the parish bulletin, which made its debut on Easter Sunday, Herrington said. Father Tony Herold, in his pastor’s message, wrote: “This Easter we are going to talk about intentional discipleship. We are going to explore the implications of a personal, lived-out faith. We are going to invite you to rediscover, perhaps for the first time, the joy of discipleship.”
The new bulletin emphasizes how a living, vibrant faith can be a game changer that impacts lives and relationships. It includes stories of faith of parishioners, Tasha said. “It shows how people have found opportunities of how God moves in their lives. It’s personal witness.” The bulletin includes several “take home” discussion questions for people to think about with their families.
Michael said Jesus walked with people and fostered relationships. “It was natural, organic and unforced.”
Tasha said the power of invitation — a personal invitation — has been an important part of fostering discipleship. “It’s a phone call or meeting someone for a cup of coffee. It’s not sending an email or text.”
Efforts to welcome new members to the parish have also been enhanced. In the past, newcomers would fill out a form or call the parish with their information and envelopes would be sent. Today, a parish staff member meets personally with a new member or family. “We want to connect with them. We want to learn their wants and needs,” Tasha said. Michael added, “We want to get to know them. We value each and every member of our parish.”
Another initiative to encourage discipleship is the Ignite event, offered the fourth Thursday evening of each month. Tasha said it’s an evening of contemporary praise and worship, a lay message and witness in the church. Herrington added that it allows people to encounter the love of God.
“Ignite can be a precursor for Christian Experience Weekend (CEW) for some,” Tasha said.
Herrington said the 1.5 hour-long program inspires people to invite others to attend and many are repeat attendees.
Some other activities associated with the launch include 24-hour adoration on set days, introduction to Lectio Divina, spiritual gifts and discernment and a community service Saturday.
“We want people to foster lasting relationships. With 1,100 families, it’s easy to be anonymous,” Michael said.
The Discipleship Launch lasted the six weeks of the Easter season. St. Paul the Apostle parishioners will continue to embody the missionary spirit of their patron saint and embrace Christ’s mission to go make disciples, the organizers said.