Sherry Weddell, renowned Catholic author and discipleship teacher, presented a daylong workshop at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Camp Hill, on Sept. 18. More than 90 faithful attended the workshop, which included four different hour-long sessions designed around the principles of her book, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus. Published in 2012, the book has become a national best seller.
Ms. Weddell, who founded the Catherine of Siena Institute – the first charism discernment process specifically designed for Catholics in 1993 – has presented workshops to more than 175,000 lay, religious and ordained in some 600 parishes in 200 dioceses worldwide over the past three decades.
To kick off the workshop, Father Neil Sullivan, pastor, led those gathered in the Liturgy of the Hours morning prayer before Ms. Weddell began her presentation, which started with several sobering polling statistics about how Americans and Catholic Americans view God and their relationship with Him. According to Ms. Weddell, 51 percent of Americans believe Jesus was a great teacher, but not God. And 57 percent of Catholics who were asked that question answered it the same.
“Our culture changed about 60 years ago,” Ms. Weddell said. “That is three generations now… three generations who do not talk about Jesus, for fear of cultural pressure or offending other people. But, if you do not talk about Jesus then you are most likely not going to have a relationship with him…. We must break the silence, not just fulfill our obligation of faith, but we must talk, talk about Jesus.”
Ms. Weddell gave many practical and specific ways parishes can help make ordinary lay Catholics express their faith and help others who may be struggling to become better disciples. And one important way is to not label or accept labelling of people, but rather hear a description of their actual lived experience with God, she said. If you listen to their life experience, she feels that you can better determine how to talk about Jesus to them on a personal level.
“Young adults who have experienced God’s real presence, whether in the Eucharist and/or adoration, and then have seen answered prayer tend to stay in their faith…. Many see Jesus as a friend, but see God as a distant rule enforcer. He is not,” Ms. Weddell stressed. “Parents or church leaders who talk about Jesus, create young people who have a relationship with Christ, with God.”
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness