By Maureen Smith & Monica Walton
FLOWOOD – Later this month, members of St. Paul Parish will offer a seven-week program called Discovering Christ. This is just the first in a three-part program called Christ Life, designed to help Catholics deepen their personal relationship with God and become evangelizers.
Father Gerry Hurley, pastor, looked at several programs before he selected Christ Life. The method is no small commitment. His entire staff went to Baltimore for training in how to run Christ Life.
“I like it most especially because of how it starts off – asking what is the purpose of life – and it goes from there. It is a valuable, progressive series,” said Father Hurley.
Participants follow a structured program, meeting once a week for seven weeks for a meal, a video, sharing and prayer time, capped off with a one-day retreat. They answer a series of questions during that time, including what is the meaning of life, why does Jesus matter, why do I need a savior and why do we need the church. A dozen groups of 12 participated.
“I have always felt we ask people to share Christ without giving them Christ. We need to give people an opportunity to know Christ before they can witness their faith,” said Father Hurley. The parish completed the first session of Discovering Christ in February. Participants were energized by their experience.
“Discovering Christ was exactly what I needed for re-spiriting my soul. Had been down spiritually for many years. It gave me that kick to start my involvement again. I said ‘Yes’ at the right time!” said Donna Morris.
“Through Discovering Christ, I feel inspired to examine my relationship with Christ, and work on things that are impeding my knowing Him fully. I would like to be more knowledgeable so that when opportunities to share my faith arise, I can be more confident,” explained Teri Gieb, a convert who admitted she took 20 years to enter the church. “The program reminded me that it is my relationship with Christ that puts the joy and meaning in everything else and that when it is weak other things can easily replace it and become overly important,” she added.
For others the program kick-started an urge to evangelize. “My heart was also filled with excitement and joy that I haven’t felt in a while. It was a different joy, one that was so full where I wanted to tell everyone I knew about this opportunity. It was a zeal that I want to keep forever in my heart,” said Chris Kidder.
A second session of Discovering Christ is set to start March 31. The second phase of the program, Following Christ, will start in September. Following Christ focuses on learning and practicing what ChristLife calls practical disciplines needed to become a true disciple. At these weekly meetings, participants will learn spiritual practices to use and reflect on before the next session. It is also a progressive seven-week program.
The final component, Sharing Christ, teaches evangelization. Christ Life’s website describes this third component this way: “In the first two parts of the ChristLife series – Discovering and Following Christ – the goal is to help the participants to personally encounter Jesus as Lord and to grow as his disciples. With that foundation we now turn to the joy-filled adventure of Sharing Christ.”
Father Hurley said he enjoys how the program is a good combination of solid theology presented in a simple manner. “People can relate to it, it’s not just good material,” he said. He said he could feel the Holy Spirit at work on the closing retreat day.
Greenville St. Joseph Parish is starting a group and two other parishes are looking at the material.
For information about the sessions at St. Paul, call the parish, 601-992-9547, or visit http://saintpaulcatholicchurch.com.
(Monica Walton is a pastoral minister at St. Paul Parish.)