By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON/NATCHEZ – A renewal of evangelization efforts has been underway for some time in the Catholic Church, ChristLife being one of those endeavors. The goal of ChristLife is to increase active participation in parishes and to call church members to a closer, more meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.
Designed for Catholics, the three-part program consists of three courses of seven weeks each. The first course, Discovering Christ, invites people of all backgrounds to open the door to encountering Jesus and be a part of the Church. Following Christ, the second course, covers Catholic discipleship, including daily personal prayer, hearing God in Scripture, the power of the sacraments, forgiving one another and spiritual warfare, among others. The final component of the program, Sharing Christ, equips Catholics with the practical skills to proclaim the Gospel and invite others into a personal relationship with Jesus. All of these elements combine to enrich community members and build up spirits that will last long beyond the course dates.
The ChristLife program has been run at several parishes within the diocese with much success. Nancy McGhee, parishioner at Jackson St. Richard, attended the program at Flowood St. Paul several years ago, the first parish to offer the ChristLife program in the diocese.
“I personally experience renewal and spiritual growth from the ChristLife program. I am totally interested in evangelization of adults and being a part of helping others experience the power of the Holy Spirit and a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” said McGhee.
Having been involved in charismatic renewal, the Cursillo movement, Renew, developing the small church communities and a “Go Make Disciples” class at Jackson St. Richard, McGhee feels that ChristLife has some of the best parts of all those programs.
“I think people who really go through the whole ChristLife program with a sincere desire to gain a deeper faith relationship with Jesus and to be renewed in the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit do receive that,” says McGhee. “This in turn, makes all that we do as The Church more meaningful … the sacraments, getting involved in church activities, furthering religious education, helping the poor, wanting to be a part of a small faith community, feeling more a part of the parish in general and most importantly gain an excitement about lay discipleship . . . sharing your faith and the love of Christ with others in ordinary everyday ways, inviting people in, reaching out to people that our pastor would never see or know, doing our part in growing the Kingdom with the love of God shining through us in our imperfect beings.”
Natchez St. Mary Basilica will be using the ChristLife program for the first time this Fall. Out of a series of book studies, the Parish Council and a group of parishioners developed an action plan for moving the parish forward in a number of areas, including deepening the Christ-focus of both individual parishioners and of the parish as a whole. The first step was to find and implement a parish-wide program with this focus.
Ruth Powers, program coordinator at St. Mary Basilica, said, “After talking with parishioners from St. Jude in Pearl, who had taken part in the Discovering Christ program and seeing how excited they were about ChristLife, that is the one we chose. We have been working with a Christlife consultant since March on getting the necessary teams formed to implement the program.”
Powers “hope(s) that by the end of the program parishioners whose relationship with Christ is not a major focus in their lives will be moved toward Christ as a focus; that parishioners who have a relationship with Christ will have that relationship deepened and that those with a deep relationship will be on fire to share that relationship with others. We have found that Catholics in general do not seem to be comfortable with sharing Christ with others for a number of reasons. Our hope is that this experience will begin to break down those barriers, because God knows our communities and our world need Christ right now.”
Both Jackson St. Richard and Natchez St. Mary Basilica plan to offer the three-part series of ChristLife. There is no fee to participate and the program includes meals and childcare is offered if needed. All are welcome to register and attend.
Jackson St. Richard will be offering a daytime Discovering Christ program beginning on Thursday, August 29 in Foley Hall. Classes will meet Thursdays at 10 a.m. with a Saturday retreat scheduled for September 28. To register visit saintrichard.com/christlife or call Nancy McGhee at 601-942-2078.
Natchez St. Mary will begin their inaugural offering of the ChristLife series on Sunday, October 6 at the O’Conner Family Life Center. Classes will meet Sundays at 5:30 p.m. with a Saturday retreat scheduled for October 27. For more information or to volunteer contact Ruth Powers at 601-445-5616.
By Joanna Puddister King