“Intentional disciple” is significant term voiced during and after the Archdiocesan Synod.

This term is at the heart of the work of evangelization and it reminds us of our baptismal responsibility. The spirit of the synod embodied a desire to live our faith in an intentional manner.

Think of how influential our parishes and the archdiocese would become if we intentionally lived the teachings of the Gospel and the direction of the church.

The early disciples realized they were representatives of Christ and they were called to live differently in the world. St. Paul instructs the Philippian community (Phil 1:27:29): “Only conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the Gospel not intimidated in any way by your opponents.”

The synod delegates made it clear that the way forward would be the implementation of the priorities through catechesis, formation and praxis, which means practicing what one believes. In the ordination ceremony, a priest is instructed to teach what you believe and practice what you teach. This is applicable to an intentional disciple, too.

In the history of the church, whenever there was a need for reform it began with the seminary. The popes, in reforming the seminaries, realized they were establishing a foundation to shape the church for future generations, creating intentional disciples.

Recently, 750 people gathered for the annual Saint Francis de Sales Seminary dinner. It was a spirited crowd fiercely proud of the seminary and the seminarians studying for the priesthood. In recent years, there has been an increased affection for the seminary due to the seminarians and their willingness to witness to Christ and his church.

Fr. Luke Strand, our vocation director, has developed a program which places the challenge of a vocation before a young man’s life at various stages of his development: summer vocation camps for those in grammar school, talks for those in high school and a house of discernment for those in the workforce who might be discerning a vocation.

Fr. Strand’s dedicated efforts have produced great fruits for the archdiocese and this year the seminary will have one of its largest enrollments in decades. But Fr. Luke needs our assistance in creating an environment that celebrates the vocation of priesthood critical for future parish priests. All Catholics need to pray and promote.

Another area of ordained ministry is the diaconate, men often called in their later years to serve the church. The order of the diaconate was re-established in the post-Vatican II church. The diaconate has been a blessing in supporting the ministerial work of our parishes. As intentional disciples, deacons offer a bridge that spans the ordained and secular worlds.

Religious communities have always been an influential part of the growth of the archdiocese. Pope Francis has called for a yearlong celebration of religious and consecrated life. Perhaps the prayers and attention given to religious life during the coming year will challenge women and men to live as intentional disciples.   

The delegates were clear that, in addition to the promotion of vocations to priesthood and the diaconate, the need for well-trained lay ministers was essential for stable parishes. Formation of men and women in the roles of ministerial leadership continues the spirit of Vatican II, which calls for the collaboration of the ordained with lay ministers in creating communities seeking to live lives of holiness and reaching out to those in need.

According to Vatican II, ministry is grounded in the incarnation and the service of Christ which is not an after-thought to the work of the church, but an integral part of the mission of Christ.

We will examine programs to assist in the education and formation of ministers who will be certified in their areas of competence — parish directors, pastoral ministers, DREs, catechists and administrators.

A true minister looks not to be served but to serve. Coming from the Latin word “minus, which translates as “to lessen,” ministers lessen themselves in order to allow Christ to serve through them. As an intentional disciple, a minister is one who serves the church in the name of the master Jesus Christ.

We must also realize that every person who is a believer must strive to be an “intentional disciple.” The world is in need of evangelization, taking Christ into the world.

Creating intentional disciples does not mean filling the sanctuary with people but rather filling the offices, the factories and our civic centers with people committed to Jesus Christ, with people willing to live the faith and give voice to his church in the public forum.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: (905) Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.” For lay people, “this evangelization … acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.”

Whether our synod delegates were conscious of it or not, they were reflecting the spirit of the church’s faithful in seeking to be intentional disciples in the practice of the faith. If we want to change the world, we begin by changing our hearts and becoming willing followers of Christ. Intentional discipleship will help us to be a more loving and stronger church.