A call for discipleship
Throughout the past five years of Archbishop Aquila’s ministry, he has continually called the faithful to become “missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.” Examples include his many articles on the subject, his booking experts and introducing books on the subject to share ideas with the Presbyterate, mandating key staff to work on how best to support this cultural change, and making it one of the most common themes of his homilies. In 2017, he called for the official beginning of an “Archdiocesan-wide Discipleship Initiative.”
Universal sense that the status quo must change
Pope Francis has also issued this call to form “missionary disciples” to dioceses and parishes across the world. His work “Joy of the Gospel” moved many to realize it was time to think about our efforts very differently. Perhaps we’ve created a maintenance-oriented community that never properly implemented the timeless teachings of the Church? Maybe we never took to heart how a Church that used “new methods, expressions, and ardor” would actually look? As a result, some dioceses have created painfully prescriptive programs for their parishes, which seem to ignore the realities of individual charisms or communities. Others have made the even bigger mistake of freezing in the face of challenges, or living in denial about the failure of their current mode of operations.
It’s not about programs — it’s about culture
We are looking for something much more realistic and tangible. As most of us know, “discipleship” has much more to do with relationship than it does to any program. We know that spreading a “culture of discipleship” through our parishes does not require rocket science, but rather the will to cooperate, a concern for souls, and a commitment to grow in our personal relationship with Christ and others.
STARTING WITH THE REALITIES WE FACE MOVED US TO BEGIN
CO population (5,540,545) rose 91,150 in 2016 (251 per day) while Mass attendance decreased 0.33%. In 2017, we declined another 1% while the state continued to experience unprecedented growth. While some dioceses would be pleased with the steadiness, we know this is a per capita sign of decline. Further, it’s clear that an unacceptably small number of the faithful are volunteering, tithing, or actively evangelizing. While we are so grateful to the disciples that make us a strong Church, we know our disengaged constituents being motivated to bring their gifts into play could have a massive impact!
Millennials (those born between 1982-2002) outnumbered baby boomers in 2015. They are the least religious generation in history. The generation being born between 2003-2021 is often called “iGen.” They have an entirely different worldview, think of community entirely differently, and will be raised in a completely relativistic culture.
It goes without saying that we are living in a post-Christian culture. Truths we recognize as crucial to a thriving person (marriage and family, living out of virtue, etc.) are now culturally less acceptable. Northern Colorado is a hub for relativistic post-modern views that contradict authentic Christianity.
Hope lies in the fundamentals of being Christians
What Christ has brought is what we and the people of northern Colorado need. The discipleship model he instituted is the model for us to foster in our parishes. More than that, we have something that is particularly sought by millennials and the young. Unlike others competing for their time, the Catholic faith is authentic, intelligent, sincere, and offers a view of human life that is good, beautiful, and above all — TRUE.
The status quo cannot continue
We are all continuously busy doing things that are not reversing these trends. While much of what we do is crucial, we need to take the time to rethink sincerely what we do and why. We aren’t asking for rocket science; we are asking for the will and cooperation necessary to move our culture in a systemically more positive direction. We must take the initial steps on the long road of changing a culture. Together, we must begin.