March 20, 2023

By Mikaela Pannell

If there is one feeling we’ve all had at some point over the past couple of years, it’s loneliness. With forced isolation and the tumultuous political landscape, all of us have felt alone and alienated at least once. Even living out our Catholic faith can at times feel lonely these days.

But we are not alone.

We can so easily forget that many faithful people before us have walked the road we’re on, and there are others living right now who can help us along our own journey. They are there to come alongside us and assist us in living the faith well.

Nobody has to walk the road to heaven alone. Eventually, the habits we have learned from those who walk with us will be passed on to others. That’s what discipleship looks like, and it is a major focus for the younger generation of Catholics. We are blessed in our diocese to have opportunities to grow in discipleship without even leaving the state.

Going Deeper in discipleship

The diocese is once again offering an intensive weekend retreat for youth looking to delve into their spiritual life, aptly named Going Deeper. This retreat, occurring in March of 2022, will focus on the teachings of St. Francis de Sales and how those teachings can be applied to everyday life. Retreats like Going Deeper are proof you are not alone in your quest for sainthood; others in your community are walking the same road you are, and there are people who want to help you.

St. Francis de Sales, the man behind the teachings the Going Deeper retreat will look into, was alive during the time of the Protestant Reformation. It was a difficult time to be Catholic. He was a busy man, but he made it a point to focus especially on one-on-one relationships with people. His way of life has become a model for discipleship around the globe.

As you might imagine, St. Francis wasn’t necessarily one to catechize to a crowd. He would go door to door, spreading the good news of Jesus, bringing tens of thousands of people into the Catholic Church. He was also in frequent communication with those who were being discipled by him, using letters or spending individualized time with them. Some of those following Francis’ model of discipleship today include our very own Lumen Christi missionaries.

Lumen Christi missionaries work in parishes around the diocese, emphasizing the individualized discipleship model taught by St. Francis. They are excellent models of young people living out their faith in the Church. These young men and women are stationed throughout the diocese to help parishioners learn the model of discipleship, so they can in turn disciple others. All of the Lumen Christi missionaries have themselves had discipleship mentors to watch and follow, and they are now in a place to be mentors to others.

Call to holiness

Another concept central to St. Francis de Sales’ teachings is a universal call to holiness. There has always been a misconception among many Catholics that unless you are a priest or a nun, you can never attain holiness. Of course, this is not the case. St. Francis spent much of his life forming lay people in becoming holy in their ways of life.

Everyone in every stage of life has a calling to be holy. This includes the single life and the time in life spent discerning if you are called to the consecrated/ordained life or marriage. The Going Deeper retreat will help participants refine habits and skills necessary to living a life of holiness themselves, in addition to helping others on their faith journey.

Bishop DeGrood’s vision for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love, echoes this sentiment. We are called to be disciples in the ordinariness of our everyday lives. Everyone is called to holiness, whether married, single or in religious life.

St. Francis stressed the necessity of prayer in the journey toward holiness, and Bishop DeGrood also encourages a strong prayer life. Being holy means following where the Lord calls you, but it’s hard to know what he wants if you aren’t communicating with him. That’s why prayer is so important. Just like the original Apostles and disciples of Jesus communicated with him and listened to what he taught, we also need to do so. Having a mentor can be greatly beneficial in learning how to hear God’s voice. They also offer encouragement and lead by example.

Discipleship isn’t easy, but it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone. Going Deeper will be full of like-minded individuals striving for holiness, young Catholics looking to be discipled and to one day disciple others.

Being a disciple is a lifelong commitment, but a commitment that is worth every moment.