Earlier this year our parish community and the whole Saint John Diocese had the opportunity to participate in a survey entitled the Disciple Maker Index. It was administered by an organization engaged by our diocese with the view to revitalizing and realignment our diocesan community. Ultimately, this exercise and what follows will help to bring new life into our local church. It will also help us to realign or restructure the parishes of our diocese.
The Disciple Maker Index survey took place over a two week period in late January and early February. Almost 6000 people took the survey in our diocese and every parish was represented. Some filled in the forms that were available after Mass and many took it online through our parish website. The aim of the survey was to present a picture of our diocese with regard to our spiritual growth and our lives as disciples of Jesus.
The questions we were asked addressed several areas of our faith and spiritual life: our attitudes and belief; our level of active participation in parish life; our relationship and satisfaction with our experience of church and parish. Out of this picture we will gain a sense of what our strengths and our weaknesses are as a local faith community. Once having obtained this for our whole diocese we can then begin to work at building strong, lively and vibrant communities of faith in all parts of our diocese.
The results of the survey itself will be made available to individual parishes in the next month or so. As we receive these results it will be important for us to recognize that these are a description of how we in our parish see ourselves as disciples of Jesus. What does this mean for you and for me?
In the ancient world disciples searched out and chose to follow someone as a master or teacher. This teacher and disciple would form a strong personal relationship. The disciple would then spend a time learning all one could learn from this master or teacher. In the case of Jesus, there may be searching, but discipleship is more of a call.
In the Gospels we are often presented with scenes in which curious crowd gathered around Jesus. In some cases it is from these crowds that Jesus chose his disciples with a simple “follow me”. (Matt.1:22) At other times, particular persons would ask “where do you live” to which Jesus’ response is “come and see”. (Jn.1:39)
Being a disciple of Jesus is a response to a call from Jesus. The Gospel accounts show the disciples receiving this call where they were – fishing, mending nets, at the tax collectors table. That is, the call came in the ordinary settings of human life. Our discipleship call comes most often in our family setting. It can also come to us in our work setting, from friends and neighbours. The step of our baptism is the first in this relationship of discipleship, the beginning of a lifelong response to a call.
Like the Gospel experience, it means following Jesus, learning from what he models and becoming Jesus for others. We begin by growing a relationship with the person of Jesus and grow to become the sign and presence of Jesus for others.
The Disciple Maker Index survey is intended to help us recognize and reflect on the vitality of our discipleship. As well it is aimed at helping us to see how our parishes, our diocese can better live and act as active, life-giving communities of disciples, models of Jesus living in our world and sharing the Good News.