The Impact of a Missionary Discipleship Process on St. Daniel the Prophet Church
St. Daniel the Prophet Parish, in Wheaton, has been impacted in a big way by ChristLife, a process that equips Catholics for evangelization so that all might encounter Christ and be transformed into missionary disciples.
Conversion of hearts has been occurring at the parish as a result of its implementation of the ChristLife experience.
Dave Nodar, ChristLife’s founder, refers to three essential conversions that are needed in a Catholic’s life as a disciple: a personal acceptance that Jesus is Lord; that just going to Mass is not enough forsomeone to be a disciple — in other words, there needs to be a daily lifestyle of following Christ and the Church teachings; and the third one is the understanding that, once we become disciples, we have to go out and make other disciples.
By engaging in the ChristLife experience, the parish experiences community and relationships to help form a new culture there, Nodar said.
We need to get back to the basics, back to the foundations of what Christ has called us to and what the Church since Vatican II has been constantly calling us to: embrace evangelization and the call to be and make disciples,” Nodar said.
That mindset and the ChristLife experience appealed to Father James Dvorscak, St. Daniel’s pastor. It also has had a profound impact on him and his priesthood.
“It has affected me in such a way,” Father Dvorscak said, “that the journey I am leading other people through helps me to focus on being a priest, on my baptismal priesthood, and what I need to do to be a better Catholic Christian and an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ as me, not just as a priest, and also how to be fruitful in my personal living of the faith and in my priestly ministry, as well.”
ChristLife has even impacted his preaching. “I have moved from a more static and didactic approach to preaching and ministry,” he said, to one that is “more dynamic” with “fresher approaches.”
Parishioners who have gone through the ChristLife experience have also been transformed. Here are several of their responses to a survey:
“It has made me feel that, no matter what I do, God loves and supports me. That I don’t have to earn it. He loves me anyway. Before, I felt unworthy and ‘damaged.’ Now, I know God accepts my humanity and forgives me so I can grow. My faith is stronger. I’m not just going through the motions of being Catholic. I am fully and deeply Catholic.”
“This program has fostered community. There is a special way that numerous topics speak to the heart in this course. It has been a program where beliefs and views have been challenged and enriched by the people I have met. I am 28 and my girlfriend is 27, and, even though we are younger than most by 30 years, we have bonded in the wisdom of the timeless God.”
“An amazing peacefulness has been awakened in me, and I was able to forgive and move on with a close relative who was degrading me and everyone she encountered. The Lord has opened my mind and heart to devotion to the Sacred Heart.”
“I have had a deep appreciation for the Eucharist for many years, but through ‘Following Christ’ I have come to recognize the importance of [the sacrament of] reconciliation as well. Although a cradle Catholic, I found that my CCD experience in the 1970s, coupled with spotty Mass attendance in high school and college, and a passive approach to the Church and its teachings as a young adult, had left me severely under-catechized. The more that I’ve studied and understood the Church’s teachings (even before ChristLife), the more I’ve come to realize the true genius of Catholicism. It’s not an easy path to take, but at the same time there isn’t a more rewarding path that you can take. ChristLife has helped solidify this understanding for me and will hopefully help me take it to the next level.”
“In addition to meeting new parishioners during the sessions, it has been wonderful getting to know my tablemates on a deeper, more personal level. This understanding makes our interactions before, during and after weekend Mass [this was shared before the pandemic struck] more meaningful than simply a casual, ‘Hi how are you today.’ I think everyone at our table is looking forward to the opportunity to continue meeting in small group or other settings after the ChristLife program is completed.”
“I am happier when I pray [on a daily basis now]. I thank and praise Him for my daily trials. Even though it feels awkward to thank Him at times, doing so opens my heart to receive even more of His love.”