Phase I: Visioning Process (2020)
In the first phase, a group of 11 local evangelization leaders met to discuss the vision, structure and scope of the Archbishop's Commission for Missionary Disciples. The core team also engaged in a preliminary conversation on the state of evangelization in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and proposed to the Archbishop some possible ways forward.
Questions that were addressed during the visioning phase: What is the nature and purpose of this commission? Who else needs to be on this commission? What can a commission like this hope to accomplish realistically? What would need to be in place in order for that to happen? Where are missionary disciples being formed here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia currently? What does this look like? What does a culture of missionary disciples look like in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia? What is the current culture of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia relative to our goal? What are the main obstacles that must be overcome in order to create a culture of missionary disciples in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia?
Phase II: Founding Year (May 2021-March 2022)
The Founding Year of the Archbishop’s Commission for Missionary Disciples was a period of prayer, study and discernment. The 16 members of the Commission gathered for four day-long retreat meetings at Malvern Retreat House. Meetings consisted of:
Mass and Holy Hour
Presentations by Commission members on:
Successful missionary discipleship ministries from around the country/world
Other dioceses that have launched initiatives around missionary discipleship
The principles of effective culture change in large institutions
The current state of missionary discipleship in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Meals and team-building
Ministries studied: Evangelical Catholic, Amazing Parish, FOCUS, Institute for Priestly Formation, Light of the World Retreats and other retreat models, id960, Vagabond Missions, Steubenville Discipleship Quads
Dioceses studied: Archdiocese of Detroit, Diocese of Lansing, Archdiocese of Vancouver, Diocese of Green Bay, Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archdiocese of Boston
Phase III: Launch of Pilot Initiatives (Summer 2022 to Winter 2023)
During our Launch Year, members of the Commission will break into subcommittees to begin two primary initiatives that aim to (1) foster intimacy with Jesus among the leaders of the Archdiocese and (2) equip everyone for mission to those who do not yet know Jesus. This year will be spent consulting with Catholic organizations experienced in these areas of ministry, learning from them and developing pilots that will be tested with focus groups in the Archdiocese. Here is a summary of these two projects:
A subcommittee has been formed to create a retreat intended for staff of parishes, schools or other Archdiocesan institutions. The retreat will center on the proclamation of the kerygma, our core belief that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ who suffered, died, and rose from the dead to save us from our sins and draw us into union with Himself for all Eternity. The purpose of the retreat is to bring participants into a personal encounter with the living Jesus and invite them to make a decision to put Him at the center of their life.
Over the past few months, the Kerygmatic Retreats subcommittee has consulted with local parish employees as well as national ministries to discern how best to create an effective retreat. As a result of these consultations, a plan for a pilot retreat has been developed. In September of 2022, a retreat team from the Diocese of Lansing, MI, will come to Philadelphia to pilot their Kerygma Encounter Retreat, which has similar features to the retreat we intend to launch here in Philadelphia. During this pilot phase, local parish employees will be invited to participate in the pilot Kerygma Encounter retreats to experience it for themselves and offer us their feedback on its efficacy and spiritual fruitfulness. The Commission will then move from these pilots to launch our own version of a kerygmatic retreat and begin to work with pastors and their staff to invite them to experience it.
Schools of Missionary Discipleship
A subcommittee has been formed to develop a School of Missionary Discipleship in which participants will be formed more deeply in their personal prayer lives and equipped with the skills of missionary discipleship. These skills include: how to accompany someone in one-on-one discipling, how to share the kerygma, how to share your personal testimony, prophetic listening, the five spiritual thresholds of conversion and more.
After consultation with national ministries that offer formation courses along these lines, the Commission decided to partner with the Catholic Leadership Institute to be trained in their missionary discipleship course, Parish Missionary Disciples. Members of the Commission and others will undergo intensive training with Catholic Leadership Institute to learn their model in late Summer and Fall of 2022 and be prepared to run this course as an Archdiocesan offering beginning in 2023.
Check back often for updates our on our progress!
The initiatives of the Archbishop's Commission for Missionary Disciples are made possible by a grant from the Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education, the successor name to the Archdiocesan Educational Fund. This charitable organization was created and funded by Matthew H. McCloskey, Jr. (1893-1973), building contractor and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland (1962-64), in 1967 to advance Catholic education and evangelization throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The name of the Fund changed in February 2020.