Always the same, always different

Preparing leadership and staffs to take on the work of forming collaboratives involves lots of prayers, meetings, and workshops. Three seminal workshops form the pillars on which to build a solid collaborative: Forming Disciples in Mission (FDIM), Forming Leaders for Mission, and Forming Collaboratives for Mission. Because the Pastoral Plan, 'Disciples in Mission,' is about growing the Church, people are encouraged to take Forming Disciples first. This workshop is offered at different locations and at different times: two evenings, 6-9 p.m., or all day on a Saturday. Leadership, councils, staffs, and parishioners from Phase IV, Phase V, and interested others participated in a recent evening FDIM workshop.

The workshop is facilitated by the director of training and support, Patrick Krisak. Presentations are given by the Evangelization Team: Liz Cotrupi, Amber Ezeani, and Tom Lyman. Michael Lavigne, assistant cabinet secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship leads discussion about being an evangelizing parish. Participants follow the presentations in a workbook that becomes a great resource long after the workshop ends.

The topics and presentations are basically the same, and most participants share the same context -- being part of a collaborative. Even with many similarities, each Forming Disciples workshop is unique. Depending on a participant's perspective, this new effort is either an exciting, adventure, full of hope and possibility, or a fool's errand, stepping from firm ground into thin air. There are always new questions and new ideas. People gather as strangers but leave part a network of fellow council members, staff members, volunteers, and pastoral ministers.

When the workshop is over, participants are asked to complete a thorough evaluation form, assessing everything: the facility, the food, the prayer, the presentations and the take-away -- what will you do with the information and ideas that you heard?

Letting participants speak for themselves is the best way to get the flavor of FDIM. Comments below are from folks who attended the two-evening workshop at the Pastoral Center in January.

Most people were pleased with the facility, one commenting: "All was perfect."

Prayer is an important part of the workshop -- the beginning, the end, and the middle. Liturgy of the Hours and the Examen were two prayer forms new to many people.

"Learning and experiencing new ways of praying step by step was great. Bringing the importance of the Psalms (in Liturgy of the Hours) was great."

"People facilitating the training were people offering a gladness to prayer. They helped make praying spiritual." '... offering a gladness to prayer' is an interesting phrase. Prayer is an opportunity to connect with God -- surely there should be a sense of gladness about this conversation, whether it is about joys or sorrows. This participant picked up on that.

"... I will definitely incorporate Liturgy of the Hours and the Examen in my prayer life."

"The times of prayer were wonderful, bringing me into quiet time, shelving my day for a little while. Very helpful."

Is there ever the "perfect" time for a workshop? Probably not:

"Three hours was a long time for me."

"A lot to squeeze into the time."

"Timing was just right."

"The schedule was great."

"I would have preferred all day ... time of day was late for me -- but there really is no best time."

"I liked the two evening event rather than one Saturday."

"Dealing with traffic was ..."

There is always a desire for more small group discussion: "I ... wish we had more time to share within our group ... I guess this means your questions to us were so thought-provoking! Well done!!!!"

Several participants highlighted the presentation on "Embracing the call to holiness" as being particularly helpful on a personal level.

Other "take-aways":

"I am very excited about helping my parish move forward in a collaborative."

"All (presenters) were very enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgeable."

"All of it gave me a better idea of how to and where to apply this."

"Very excited and more confident to evangelize ... Started today at Mass, welcoming a new person."

"I feel impressed with what I learned these two days about teaching the 'art of living.'"

"Just to have an idea of what evangelization means and how to bring it to parish life and mine."

"It was eye opening ... my table agreed that very few parishioners know one another on a personal level and ... that needs to change."

The hard work of the Evangelization team paid off: "All the sessions were well presented."

Forming Disciples workshops are open to all parishioners -- in a collaborative or not. Information is available at