Easy-to-Use Program Activates Dormant Parishioners
"Discovering Christ," a ChristLife Ministries program, generated conversions, renewed commitment, and intensified a sense of community.
"My parish was richly blessed during Discovering Christ and I look forward to it being made available to other parishes in the future.... There is no silver bullet or magic program that will do the work for us, but for those who want to move from information to offering inspiration and transformation, then Discovering Christ is it."
Fr Eric Arnold
Pastor, Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Ellicot City, MD
The need it meets
Many Catholics are not familiar with the basics of their faith and feel unable to share it with others. ChristLife Ministries provides programs that motivate, inform, and equip inactive Catholics to discover, live, and share their faith with others.
The "Discovering Christ" program creates the occasion for personal conversions. Fr Eric Arnold observed, "There are many parish programs that offer information about Jesus. "Discovering Christ" is not one of them. It is a relational course designed to bring people into a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus."
Where it came from
ChristLife Ministries is a lay Catholic ministry established in response to the Church's call to a new evangelization. Cardinal William Keeler recognized ChristLife as an apostolate of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1995. In 2008, Archbishop O'Brien said, "I am particularly encouraged by the 'Discovering Christ' course and your work with young adults on campus and in parishes here in Baltimore."
How it works
"Discovering Christ" is the first course in a 3-part series aimed at leading participants through three basic steps: 1) discovering Christ, 2) following Christ, and 3) sharing Christ.
Before the series, the parish staff must attend a one-day introductory seminar called Building Evangelizing Eucharistic Communities (BEEC). This seminar is led by the ChristLife staff, who teach the program's goals and methods.
Each of the three courses follows the same basic format: Participants gather weekly for dinner, watch a video, and then break off into small groups for discussion.
The first 6-session course, "Discovering Christ," presents the basic Gospel message in the context of a call to conversion. For a summary of the course content, visit http://www.christlife.org/news/images/DCTeachings.pdf.
The second 8-session video course, "Touching Jesus Through the Church," helps new converts embrace Catholic discipleship and life in Christ in a practical way. For more information, visit: http://christlife.org/miva/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=CB&Category_Code=TJ.
The third 7-session course, "Sharing Christ," gives practical skills and training for sharing the Gospel with others. For more information, including a YouTube preview, visit: http://www.christlife.org/sharefaith/SharingChrist.html.
Each course can also be offered on its own without committing to the whole series.
At Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, 133 parishioners took part in the Discovering Christ program. Some results:
- Parish involvement: Many participants decided to take on roles in parish ministries. In particular, two parishioners decided to take on leadership roles in the parish capital campaign. This decision was a direct fruit of the program.
- A sense of community: Father Eric observed a rise in the participants' sense of community, which he said "spills over into our time of Mass as well." Parishioners know each other better, feel connected by their shared experience, and are reaching out to newcomers with a welcoming spirit.
- Interest in continued formation: Out of the 133 who participated in "Discovering Christ," 55 went on to participate in a "Names of Jesus" Bible study, while an additional 34 went on to attend a Gospel of Matthew Bible study.
- Personal conversions: One participant said, ‚ÄúDuring the retreat I asked Jesus to reveal himself to me, and I just surrendered‚Ä¶and I‚Äôve noticed a change in my life and my perceptions.‚Äù
- The BEEC Seminar, led by ChristLife staff, is a necessary first step since it trains the lay people who will be running the program in the parish. It is important for them to attend so that they share the same vision of the program's goals and methods.
- Lay leaders who will introduce the videos and lead the small group discussions.
- Materials, which can be purchased at http://www.christlife.org.
- Facilities where the participants can eat dinner together and also break into small groups.
- Audio-visual equipment to show and/or project the DVDs.
How to implement it
The ChristLife web site (http://www.christlife.org) explains how to implement the program.
Fr Eric Arnold is pastor of
Our Lady of Perpetual Help.