February 2, 2023

In each of my assignments as pastor and now as your bishop, I have received a particular grace (spiritual insight from God) to provide a clear vision or focus for everyone to follow. The clear sense I got in prayer for our diocese is that God desires for everyone in our diocese to focus on lifelong missionary discipleship through God’s love.

Our feature article this month is written by Fr. Scott Traynor who is working with the diocesan Discipleship and Evangelization Team so they all can support the missionary discipleship efforts of clergy, staff and parishioners in all our Catholic parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions. Here are some insights from Fr. Traynor and the team he is overseeing.

The team has been engaged in fruitful efforts around the diocese over the past several years. Emily Leedom, director of Marriage, Family and Respect Life, has experienced these fruits firsthand in her personal journey through missionary discipleship.

“If I look at my own journey, it is laced with individuals who walked with me for a period of time, mentoring me, offering friendship and challenging me to dig deeper into Jesus’ love for me,” she said. “The work of the Discipleship and Evangelization Team is simply to create a culture in the diocese where this is happening everywhere.”

Dr. Chris Burgwald, director of Adult Discipleship and Evangelization, sees the key to missionary discipleship in the four dimensions of formation.
“The Church speaks of four dimensions of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and apostolic. To have happy, healthy and holy missionary disciples, we need to be attentive to each of these dimensions,” he explains. “We have an amazing team in the Office of Discipleship and Evangelization. Each of the four of us has particular experience, passion and gifts in one or another of these areas of formation. We are in a great position to help every parish take the next best step they can in responding to the Great Commission.”

Fr. Traynor points out that this is not a one size fits all approach. He says parishes and individual believers will be formed in their own unique way to respond to the Great Commission.

“Every parish and every person has a unique history, a unique set of needs, opportunities, relationships, resources and abilities,” Fr. Traynor says. “The Discipleship and Evangelization Team treasures the relationships we have with pastors and parish leaders around the diocese. We are eager to grow those relationships so we can more fruitfully serve parishes in their efforts to advance missionary discipleship.”

Eric Gallagher, director of Youth Discipleship and Evangelization, sees uniqueness as a benefit and a blessing.

“God works uniquely in individuals as well as within the various parishes and communities. Our hope is that we can discover the uniqueness of each parish community and inspire them to more generously share the gift of faith that God has bestowed on them,” he says. “There are many popular models and strategies being used in the Church today. The best model and strategy is one that is built on the God-given desires of each individual and customized to the needs of the parish community.”

In order to honor the unique gifts spread throughout the diocese, I will be sending out a survey to the entire diocese in July. Watch for it to arrive in your email inbox or visit our website at sfcatholic.org.

I sense God has great things in mind for us as we receive and share His love through missionary discipleship.