Living the Mission of Jesus in the Church and in the World
By Sherry A. Weddell
Our Sunday Visitor, 2017
232 pages, $19.95
In 2012, Sherry Weddell’s groundbreaking book Forming Intentional Disciples sparked a renewal of interest in evangelization within the English-speaking Catholic Church.
Weddell demonstrated that even though Catholics are receiving the sacraments by the millions, many are not truly converted and they are not becoming disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Catholics in the West are not living the faith, in many ways. They are, increasingly, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, living more like “baptized pagans,” and the more the Church clings to complacency and outmoded models of evangelization and sacramental preparation, the worse the situation becomes.
An increasingly marginalized Catholic Church is flailing and losing members. If she is to survive and thrive in the 21st century, the Catholic Church must realize that her mission is not just to administer the sacraments. Her mission is to form its members into true disciples.
In Weddell’s latest book, Fruitful Discipleship, she picks up where Forming Intentional Disciples left off and answers the question, “Once a person has experienced a life-changing conversion and crossed the threshold into the world of intentional discipleship, what then?”
According to Weddell, after discipleship comes fruitful apostleship. “As disciples mature,” she writes, “they reach a turning point where they take ownership and responsibility for the mission of the Church. They realize that they have also been anointed and sent by Christ on a mission. … They have entered the Apostle stage of development” (emphasis in the original).
But how does a “missionary disciple” bear fruit? Once people feel the call to apostleship, the next step is to discern what gifts God has blessed them with, so that their efforts at evangelization and service will be more fruitful.
To this end, the Catherine of Siena Institute, co-founded in 1997 by Weddell and Dominican Father Michael Sweeney, created the “Spiritual Gifts Inventory.” This questionnaire-type test helps Catholics discern their particular charisms. A “charism” is a God-given spiritual gift, distinct from a natural talent or an avocational interest.
The Siena Institute has identified 23 charisms, which fall into various categories, such as communication, organization, creativity, healing, lifestyle and so on. The first step in determining which of these charisms one possesses is to take the “Spiritual Gifts Inventory.”
However, like all personality assessments and psychological tests, the inventory is most effective when the test taker comes to it completely naive. Fruitful Discipleship includes the names and hallmarks of the 23 charisms, so — and I almost hate to say this — I recommended taking the inventory before reading that part of the book, because even knowing the names of the charisms might skew your results.
The inventory is offered in the context of a “Called & Gifted Workshop,” a parish program presented by a member of the Catherine of Siena Institute. To learn when the next workshop is scheduled to take place in your area, or to arrange one at your parish, contact the institute at Siena.org.
Taking the inventory changed my life. It helped me distinguish between things I’m just good at or enjoy doing and things that are truly areas in which, for some reason, I’ve been given a spiritual gift useful for building up the Body of Christ. I discovered things about myself that explain the reason my life has unfolded the way it has and things that have prompted me to alter the course of my life from here on out. Discovering where I’m not gifted has been valuable, too, because it has prevented me from wasting time and energy on endeavors that will not be fruitful.
Clare Walker writes from Westmont, Illinois.