Pentecost is right around the corner, so it’s not too early to talk about how the parish can approach this important day in our Church calendar. Too often, we stop at the perfunctory: ask everybody to wear red, sing some Holy Spirit hymns, and invite people to read the Prayers of the Faithful in different languages. If we really want to form adult disciples, however, and honor this day for what it truly stands for, we can and must speak about mission and evangelization!
Pentecost is the day on which the Church embarked on her mission: followers of Christ went forth to evangelize the world. On Pentecost, we should do no less. This is the day on which parishes should powerfully articulate a vision for what it means to be a disciple and then send people out to do the work of disciples. Interestingly enough and unfortunately, pastors tend to articulate a vision primarily when finances are involved. The result of this is that, for the average parishioner, the response—the way we embrace and participate in the mission of the Church—is by filling out a pledge card to donate money.
What we need is a strategy for getting people to take the next step beyond simply filling out a pledge card to donate more money. I would like to propose a different kind of pledge card: a “Discipleship Pledge Card,” and I would assert that Pentecost Sunday is THE day on which this should happen. At all of the Masses, the pastor or invited guest preacher should speak passionately about what it means to be a disciple of Christ, articulating the vision for the parish and the Church. Parishioners can then be given a pledge card inviting them to reflect on and then state how they plan to do the following:
- Deepen their relationship with Christ (prayer).
- Deepen their knowledge of Christ (study).
- Share their gifts with others (generosity/stewardship).
- Reach out to others (evangelization).
Just as we often provide different models of giving when it comes to financial pledge cards, the Discipleship Pledge Cards (and the inspirational talks at Mass) should provide people with concrete options for how to strengthen their life of prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization (with an emphasis on opportunities in the home and at work). Here are some examples.
My Relationship with Christ (I will commit to…)
- using the 3-Minute Retreat, Sacred Space, Give Us This Day, or other apps/online/print resources for daily prayer.
- spending 30 minutes each week in the Adoration chapel.
- praying the Rosary daily and/or praying with my family.
- praying the daily Examen each morning and evening on the train.
My Knowledge of Christ (I will commit to…)
- using the Sunday Connection (Loyola Press) or other similar resources weekly to get background on the Sunday Scripture readings.
- participating in the parish’s One Book, One Parish reading program.
- attending the parish Scripture study or other adult faith formation opportunity.
- participating in a small faith group organized by the parish.
My Gifts (I will commit to…)
- spending more time with my children helping them with their homework.
- volunteering to work at (or donate to) the food pantry once per month.
- assisting as a catechist or catechist aide.
- becoming a Minister of Care to bring Holy Communion to the sick and homebound.
My Outreach (I will commit to…)
- talking to my kids/family about my faith.
- sharing Catholic books, DVDs, or CDs I’ve read/watched/listened to with others.
- using social media to make references to my Catholic faith.
- inviting friends to parish functions and especially to Mass, prayer experiences/devotions, and learning experiences.
These Discipleship Pledge Cards can then be brought forward in a ritual after the homily, and the pastoral staff or evangelization committee can respond to people in the same way that a monetary pledge drive is responded to: with a summary of the individual’s pledge.
Thoughts and suggestions on how to flesh this out more and make it work?