Forming Intentional Disciples Chapter Summary Points and Question - Chapter 1 

Sherry's Weddell's first chapter main point regarding the alarming trends in the reduced number of Catholics that no longer practice their faith: 

"If this trend does not change, in ten years it will cease to matter that we have a priest shortage. The Builders will be largely gone, the Boomers retiring,and our institutions- parishes and schools- will be emptying at an incredible rate...So let's be clear: In the twenty-first century, cultural Catholicism is dead as a retention strategy, because God has no grandchildren.  In the twenty-first century, we have to foster intentional Catholicism rather than cultural Catholicism".

This statement seems to be the essence of Chapter 1 and which sets up all to follow.

Remember that Sherry wrote this book several years ago and trends in the interim have not contradicted her proposition regarding the direction of trends, especially here in the northeast.

Question: Does Sherry’s perspective resonate with you about our present circumstances at Saint Josephine Bakhita? How so? Be as specific as you can.


  • Bob MurrayPosted on 4/20/20

    Change does seem called for. I offer up this 3-part idea. First, a programmed, intentional and substantial turn to prayer for discernment and openness to the Holy Spirit by all in the parish. Not to recreate some imagined or remembered cultural parish from the past, but to establish a new heart for others and for God. Second, reaching out to parents. It is their influence, buffeted by and through so many external forces (or one if we peel back the surface), that has so deep of an influence on the children. And third, to enhance the faith formation programs with a concentration on having a relationship with Jesus.

  • Dcn Michael WardPosted on 4/20/20

    Jay wrote: "I see this as relevant at SJB because we need to foster a belief system and a culture that being a Christian -- and a Catholic -- is NOT about belonging to a church or a religion or following a Creed. Rather it is about a relationship with God: Father Son and Holy Spirit."

    Thanks for commenting Jay. In my view the "NOT" may be a bit strong. My sense of it is that it IS about belonging to a church and a religion (tradition) as well. I concur with Sherry that it is the relationship that is needed to give life and energy to our faith. Its what drives and animates us as disciples. But that faith is also lived out embedded in a tradition (in our case RC) which tells us what living out that faith should look like and what it means to go about doing God's will for us. The community encourages, strengthens us and holds us accountable. Without these we can become kind of Lone Rangers, out there making it all up in Our Own Image rather than the challenging and larger beautiful reality that Jesus Christ is calling us to. I think we need the realtionship and the community and the tradition...while the relationship IS the essential foundation. Peace Bro.

  • JayPosted on 4/20/20

    The title of this chapter is intriguing: God has no grandchildren." To me, it means God only has children. And that each of us needs to make a personal choice: Not only to proclaim that we are Christians - or Catholics - but also to LIVE as a disciple of Jesus Christ. This requires us to have a relationship. Not just a belief system.

    I see this as relevant at SJB because we need to foster a belief system and a culture that being a Christian -- and a Catholic -- is NOT about belonging to a church or a religion or following a Creed. Rather it is about a relationship with God: Father Son and Holy Spirit.

    I was fortunate that in the 1970's and into the 1980's, I was involved in a retreat program at Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford called Christian Encounter. The high school weekends were unisex and the college weekends were co-ed. One of the main things I remember is being taught that there are three important relationships in our lives: With ourselves; with others; and with God. It was the first time I had been introduced to the concept of having a relationship with God.

    I think SJB needs to include this concept in our children and youth programs and reinforce it in homilies and in our adult programs.

    As we read in subsequent chapters, this is an essential ingredient in forming intentional disciples. And in helping people, and parishes, reach their full potential. 

  • Dcn Michael WardPosted on 4/16/20

    Sherry Weddell’s take on what has been going on in our Church resonated as strongly true for me. It was particularly highlighted for me by my having served “away” as a Deacon in New Britain for five years from 2010-2015. I listened with interest to the stories that many of the older parishioners told with evident pride about their parishes that had been vibrant and active mainstays of their communities in the 1960’s through the 1980’s.

    One of the parishes had a huge sanctuary that seated over 800 people. There was a retractable wall between that sanctuary and a parish hall that could be opened for overflow on Sundays, and Easter and Christmas as well. Parishioners noted proudly that this overflow capacity was necessary regularly on Sundays in the 1970’s. By the time I had arrived those walls had not been opened in years and were never moved in the five years I served there. In fact the sanctuary was never more than about 40-50% full on the most well attended holiday Masses and was more typically 30% capacity on regular Sunday masses. Mass with such a number of vacant places for faces wears on you after a while. While in the 1960-70’s there were at time 3 priests assigned to this parish by 2010 one was adequate to cover 2 masses per weekend there and two at another parish across town that had experienced a similar significant decline.

    One parish was a blue-collar working class parish and the other predominantly middle class and professional. It didn’ really matter, the impact of the intervening years was more or less the same. When talking about it at any great length about this reality people were concerned, sad and perplexed by all that had happened, and at a loss as to what to do about it. The single most consistent story line I heard from this faithful remnant of parishioners was their sadness that their own children, and in turn grandchildren, were now not active in the “practice” of their faith as they had been earlier. These parishes as far as I could tell were very strong examples of “cultural” Catholicism. The folks that remained had absorbed a fair degree of “intentionality” in their own personal faith lives that they had managed to “absorb” over the course of their lives, and not a few had very strong and vibrant personal faith.

    For others the “cultural” perspective had managed to endure through the decades regardless. Both of these amounted to now more than a remnant of their former heavily “cultural” parish life’s very strong demographic from the 1960-1980’s. These places were mere shadows of their former selves in terms of numbers and all that implies. One of the parish plants was remarkably well maintained and driving by you would never expect that it had become so hollowed out over the years. I would imagine that unless something turns these parishes around, at least one of them would be a very strong candidate for closing in the upcoming 2nd and 3rd wave of pastoral planning consolidations in the near future.

    My sense is that Saint Josephine Bakhita is a decade or so behind them. We are witnessing now in the exodus of post-Confirmation young people, the same dynamic of decline that these two urban parishes had experienced some time ago, the same “hollowing out”. My fear and suspicion is that unless something turns around, as Sherry Weddell lays out in her book, our parish is on the same road and will experience the same hollowing out over time, such that eventually one church building with 2-3 Masses per weekend is all we will really need before long. That may sound overly pessimistic.

    Convince me that I am mistaken. What say ye?