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Discipleship Experience Resounds Deeply with Participants
Be Formed: A 90-day Discipleship Experience” recently completed its 90-day experience on Easter Sunday. More than 600 people participated — most from the Diocese of Joliet, but some from across the country.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Father Burke Masters, the diocesan secretary for Christian Formation. “I’ve heard people say, ‘This literally has changed my life. My prayer has increased. I feel connected to my accountability partner and my small group to know that I’m not alone on this journey.’ It’s prompted us to say that the Holy Spirit is moving in this, and people want more. That’s what we keep hearing from them.”
Fear not, more is coming. Another Be Formed experience will begin May 9, 2021, and run until Aug. 6, 2021. The goals of Be Formed for participants include “to grow as a disciple of Jesus, to form Christian community, to learn how to pray, to form life-long virtuous habits, to gain courage and learn how to share your faith.” Father Masters teamed with two diocesan leaders, Katie Choudhary and Rick Erwin (members of the Adult Formation Team), and a few others to come up with the idea. The men who participated from early January through Easter Sunday worked with Jeff Cavins, a Catholic author and speaker, to develop part of the formation plan.
The women participants worked with a book entitled MISERICORDIA // Blessed Conversations published by Blessed Is She, a woman’s ministry that fosters community and prayer among women. The Be Formed women walked through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and met in small groups weekly after reading about saints, blesseds and other holy people who have lived or are living the works of mercy.
In season 2 of the Be Formed discipleship experience, starting in early May, the men and women will follow the same format, which includes following the four pillars of formation that are common in the spiritual life.
- THESE PILLARS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
- Human: sleep, diet, exercise
- Spiritual: prayer, Scripture, sacraments
- Intellectual: reading/listening to good things to strengthen your faith
- Pastoral: sharing your gifts and faith with others
- HERE’S WHAT WILL ALSO REMAIN FROM THE PREVIOUS 90-DAY EXPERIENCE:
- Accountability partners, who encourage one another in the daily commitments and share their moments of grace each day.
- Weekly small groups and monthly large group meetings will continue on a virtual basis, as will ongoing leadership training.
- A daily video from Father Masters on the daily Mass readings.
The formation content will be different than the first session, with a concentration on book four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which will include Father Masters sharing a daily video on a section of the Catechism. Also, in addition to separate men and women groups, a new twist will be groups for couples. Another difference is that talks by Jeff Cavins will not be part of the process. Those who participated in the first season of Be Formed are encouraged to continue. New participants are welcome, even if they didn’t participate in the first season. All are welcome!
The experience will continue to be conducted virtually; a suggested minimum donation is set for $35, but, if someone can’t pay, they can still participate.
Here are several testimonies by people who have been participating in the experience since January 2021:
VINCE HEATON, a parishioner at St. Michael Parish in Wheaton
The key word for me is “discipline.” I loved Father Burke’s spring training analogy that even seasoned, all-star veterans go to spring training and practice all the basics — the disciplines of catching, throwing, bunting, etc. — and then continue to do so on a daily basis throughout the season to stay sharp, focused and to put them in the best possible position to be successful. While I attended daily Mass before January 1, 2021, this, along with occasional rosaries, were the extent of my prayer life. Sure, I would dabble here and there; I even went to Adoration occasionally and struggled mightily with contemplative prayer.
Now, with Be Formed, I have become more disciplined. … My wife and I are now saying a decade of the rosary in bed together at night, and I end each day with a silent daily examen. Then, in the morning we listen to Father Mike Schmitz’s “Bible in a Year” podcast together over breakfast. … We never read the Bible or ever did “church stuff” together as a couple, other than Sunday Mass. I have never been so disciplined, but it also has helped my wife and I come closer together. We don’t watch TV. We play board and card games together at night and actually talk with each other. We still have rough patches, usually because I am acting defensive, prideful or controlling, but we have had real quality time together, which has been good for our marriage and for our children to witness.
ANGELA FLAHERTY, a parishioner at St. Anne Parish, Oswego
The women's group is reading about the saints in relationship to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. It is difficult in a pandemic to help others. We have been coming up with creative ways to reach out to those in need. We also keep each other in prayer and have a group text that at the very least has messages one time per day. In reality, we are reaching out to each other throughout the day, which keeps allowing us to receive graces. Just to share our stories, thoughts, worries and know that others are praying for us, brings us together as a group.
DANIELLE BOLISAY, a parishioner at Notre Dame Parish, Clarendon Hills:
I had been struggling with past sins and regrets, shame, and feelings that I was not good enough to be loved by God. I was in church one Sunday, and during the homily the priest asked, "What is your vocation?" It was easy to say mother and nurse, but he wasn't asking that. He was asking us to know our true identity and what God is calling us to do.
I honestly could not answer the question. I felt I was at my lowest point, and it bothered me tremendously that I did not know the answer.
Soon after that day, I saw that Adoration was being held on Monday nights. I never went to Adoration before but felt a calling to go. I went that Monday, and during my prayer time I often kept hearing "I will make all things new." Although this gave me a glimmer of hope, I still felt just as lost as before.
Not long after this day, I saw in the bulletin that Be Formed was starting. I showed it to my husband, and we were both apprehensive about joining. Ninety days seemed so long! I never did small groups either and the accountability partner nearly killed it for me. There were so many factors stopping me but then my husband surprised me and said he was going to do it, but only if I did it, too. I felt like I should do it at that point and again kept hearing" I will make all things new." Needless to say, we both joined Be Formed.
So, fast forward…. I truly have been transformed! Through Be Formed, I have completely opened my heart up to God's merciful, never-ending love. I have found healing and learned how to rely on God instead of myself. I was so used to trying to fix everything on my own instead of turning to God and giving Him control. I could not have done this if I wasn't part of Be Formed. My life has changed and people around me have noticed the change. My mom said last week, "I have seen the change in you and how you relate to me." The commitment card forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. My favorite thing now is waking up in the morning to read Scripture, mediating about it and journaling about what God is saying to me. I have found my identity through this process and I now know my mission. I have found healing through monthly confession and through small group sessions, walking together with other women on the journey.
ALYSSA O’BRIEN, a parishioner at Holy Family Parish, Shorewood
I went into these 90 days just wanting to grow closer to the Lord in my day-to-day life, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew that I wanted to stay committed to following Christ in whatever way possible during this time of social distancing, which has been a real challenge for our entire Catholic community, but Be Formed has been so beneficial in the growth I have experienced over the past two months. I have had such a flame ignited within me over the past few years, but felt I needed more knowledge about how to live in a way that would form me into a missionary disciple. …
This is a life journey, and I realize that it’s not just 90 days. I’m being set up here to do something more for Christ in the days ahead, and I love discovering who I am and how I can use my gifts to bring others to life in Christ.