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: Pilot Initiatives (August-December 2022)
During our Pilot Year, members of the Commission broke 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 has been 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 was 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. In September 2022, the Commission conducted two pilots of the Kerygma Encounter Retreat from the Diocese of Lansing
Schools of Missionary Discipleship
A subcommittee was 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. In the Fall of 2022, we partnered with the Catholic Leadership Institute to offer in their missionary discipleship course, Parish Missionary Disciples, which was offered in both English and Spanish to approximately 35 participants in each language.
Phase IV: Launch of Initiatives (2023 to Present)
Beginning in February 2023, the Office for the New Evangelization in collaboration with the Archbishop's Commission for Missionary Disciples officially launched its own kerygma retreat, entitled Ablaze. To learn more about this retreat, visit phillyevang.org/ablaze.
Beginning in March 2023, the Office for the New Evangelization in collaboration with the Archbishop's Commission for Missionary Disciples officially launched the Schools of Missionary Discipleship. To learn more about this course, visit phillyevang.org/schools.
Beginning in February 2023, the Office for the New Evangelization in collaboration with the Archbishop's Commission for Missionary Disciples launched the initiative, Go Forth: Deepen Your Discipleship, Grow in Mission. Through this initiative, Catholics throughout the Archdiocese are invited to subscribe to a text message list through which the Archbishop will send a weekly text containing a challenge for the week that will help us grow in our personal friendship with Jesus or cultivate sharper skills for mission. Texts will continue until February 2024. To learn more about Go Forth, visit: phillydisciples.org/goforth.
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.