I hope all is well. I write with some news on our youth program. Below you will find a letter from Heather Quinlan, our youth director. I would invite you to read her letter, and I invite as many parents as possible to attend the informational meeting tomorrow evening at 6:30 to learn about this new initiative. It’s been shown that one of the most effective ways to keep our youth engaged in their faith is through discipleship groups. We’re excited to offer them at Saint Timothy’s now too. You can read more about them below, but the basic idea is that youth can spend time with the peers of their choice, on a night of their choice, and reflect on their faith with the help of two adult mentors, who can share insights from their own experience and about the faith generally. Please read more about it below and consider having your child join a discipleship group. We all want our youth to remain active and engaged in their faith, and this has been shown to do exactly that.
I hope to see you tomorrow night at 6:30.
Here is Heather’s letter:
The Value of Discipleship Groups
For the three years Jesus conducted his active ministry, he invested in the lives of twelve men, the apostles. He lived with them, ate and drank with them, traveled with them, and taught them. They observed how he lived and how that corresponded to what he said and they slowly learned how to imitate the Master and pass on his teachings. It was a good thing, too, because Jesus didn’t have a backup plan if they failed in their mission of “mak[ing] disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, [and] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). No, Jesus ascended into heaven and entrusted the eleven, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with the task of spreading the Good News and leading the Church. If they failed, we would not be Catholic Christians today.
But they did not fail because Jesus had discipled them. He had touched their hearts in such a way that they were willing to leave everything and follow him, even to the point of ten out of the eleven giving their lives as martyrs. This is what it means to be a disciple: to leave everything in order to follow the Teacher wherever he may lead. And we see from Jesus’ final commission in Matthew (above) that it is his desire that all nations, each one of us included, become disciples. So the question is, how do we do that? How do we become disciples?
In the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, “there are as many paths as there are people,” but one path that has yielded many good fruits in youth ministry are small discipleship groups. These are small groups made up of single-gender, close-in-age friends, who are mentored (discipled) by two adult leaders. These adult mentors do what Jesus did for the apostles: model the Christian life, engage in dialogue about the faith, and challenge the group to grow in holiness.
As if following Jesus’ example wasn’t enough support for discipleship groups, here are some testimonies of people whose lives were transformed by discipleship. Saint John Paul II was mentored during the Nazi occupation by a simple tailor, Jan Tyranowski; ten of his “disciples” became priests. Two brother priests in our archdiocese were invited by a professional man to study the Bible with him while they were in college and that deepened their faith from something ritual-based to a personal relationship with Jesus. I was discipled by Patti Rivera, a mom from my parish, for three years during college and I attribute the beginning of my personal faith to her influence (and God’s grace, of course).
These are only four examples of the fruit that has been born through discipleship groups; I have heard many more. That is why we are introducing discipleship groups into the youth ministry program this fall. Participation is optional and parents are very much included “in the loop.” That is why I invite all parents of middle and high schoolers to attend the Introduction to Discipleship Groups information meeting that will be held tomorrow, Sept. 3, from 6:30-8:00 pm in the parish basement. I will paint a more thorough picture of what a discipleship group is, how your (pre)teen can start or be a part of one, and how parents are involved. I look forward to seeing you there!