Discipleship rooted in living out, sharing faith

Categories: Around the Diocese,DMD

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Julianne Stanz

Julianne Stanz is the director of new evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., and is a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catechesis and Evangelization. She will present on “Creating a Culture of Intentional Discipleship in Your Parish” at Diocesan Ministry Day Aug. 31 in St. Cloud. The following is a recent Visitor interview with Stanz; it has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What is “intentional discipleship”?

Stanz: Those of us who work in the area of discipleship notice that, very often, there is not a well-articulated plan for discipleship in parishes. People think that because a church exists and people show up, that we have an intentional strategy for how we make disciples. That is not the case. Another common misconception is that if we have people who are very active in programs, then they are disciples. But we know that participation does not always equal discipleship.

My workshop will be about: How do we intentionally seek to form disciples? How do we form ourselves as disciples and then carry out the formation of others? Then, at the parish, how do we foster a culture of discipleship in the new evangelization with the challenges and the possibilities that we have today?

Q: You said participation doesn’t necessarily equate to discipleship. Talk about the difference.
Stanz: We have people who may be very active in our programs, in our classes and in our activities, but they are not living out the Gospel demands.

For example, I think when you look at our Catholic population, 64 percent of Catholics don’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They may be Catholics who are coming to Mass, but they may not actually believe it. Sometimes, they do not know what the church’s teaching is or they misunderstand it.

Theorists also suggest that about 7 percent of our parishioners are evangelized. By that, they mean they are giving of themselves, tithing well, are engaged in formation, have a personal relationship with Christ, may read Scripture every day and attend the sacrament of reconciliation. Yet, this 7 percent, researchers tell us, give [the church] about 86 percent of its resources and personnel.

Q: What’s an example of something a parish can do to address this?

Stanz: One thing parishes can do is to create a culture of witness. Now, for Catholics, that’s very challenging. We haven’t been traditionally taught how to share our story of faith. In my workshop, I will give participants a framework for how to encourage Catholics to share their faith. I’ll be giving people language they can use. … I will be sharing with them some vignettes of other people’s stories to bring this alive for them.

Q: Does this culture of witness involve both words and actions?

Stanz: Absolutely. As it’s been said: “They will know we are Christians by our love.” How do we love one another? How do we communicate to people who, in these times, are so desperately looking for hope? It’s one of the greatest challenges but also the greatest opportunity for us.
There’s a quote that I love from St. Francis de Sales. He said, “It’s not enough to tell people that they are loved. People have to feel that they are loved.” In parishes, how do we provide people with opportunities to feel loved, to feel appreciated, to feel affirmed, and to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ? How do we impress upon people that this love is there for them?

Q: Would you say this involves stressing the importance of a personal relationship with Christ?
Stanz: That’s a very good point. Sometimes, I’ll tease this out by asking, “Which member of the Trinity do you pray to?”