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THE GAME PLAN to form intentional and joyful missionary disciples

 In his pastoral letter, “Unleash the Gospel,” the Archbishop calls upon all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit to set out on a journey of Joyful Missionary Discipleship. His prayer is that all Catholics would encounter Christ anew in their lives, grow daily in discipleship, and regularly witness the Good News! Here at St. John Neumann we are calling upon all of our parishioners to be intentional about their growth in Joyful Missionary Discipleship. This Game Plan is the pathway toward full discipleship that we ask the whole parish to embrace—each individual member of our community should be serious about making these elements a part of his or her faith journey and encourage others to do the same. 


 “All Are Welcome”—it’s a simple slogan but it sums up everything that we are about as St. John Neumann Parish.  “All Are Welcome” forms the bedrock of our parish’s disciple-making game plan. But radical joyful missionary discipleship requires that relationships form before someone enters our doors. As a Church we will constantly go out and invite those who are not here to experience Jesus Christ at St. John Neumann. Whether it’s as simple as inviting a neighbor to the International Dinner or a co-worker to Alpha everyone should be constantly pointing to the parish and saying “There is a place for you here!” And once someone is a member of the community the invitations don’t stop—they go deeper! Many of you have experienced the power of our adult faith formation programs, our service organizations, the Alpha Program, and more—invite others to those experiences! 


Alpha is a program of 10 interactive sessions designed to present the Gospel and the essentials of Christian faith in a dynamic way that reaches the hearts of all men and women. Each session includes a meal, a video talk, and small group discussion. Alpha is a vital part of the parish game plan because it cultivates zeal for growing in discipleship and helps participants feel at home here. For the new member of the Catholic family the Alpha Course provides a vital introduction to the teaching of Christianity, the practice of prayer, and the importance of growing in discipleship alongside other Christians. For the established Catholic, the Alpha Course provides an often-needed fresh look at old truths and fosters a new zeal for prayer with the Holy Spirit and growing in holiness alongside other believers. We’ve had close to 1,000 members of the parish already participate in the Alpha program—the relationships made, the witness stories that have been shared, and the hunger that participants have shown for continuing in their faith journey have convinced us that the Alpha Course is a crucial first step on the journey toward becoming joyful missionary disciples.


Alpha is both a powerful learning experience and a powerful experience of community! It’s natural that Alpha Participants find themselves asking “What’s next?” and searching for another similar chance to experience the faith anew! To meet these needs the parish will continue to offer small group series that challenge members to learn and live the faith in deeper and deeper ways. You’ve probably heard of many of these groups, they are called: Little Rock Scripture Study, Symbolon, The Jesus Lifestyle, the Couples Prayer Series, and the Alpha Parenting Teenagers Course. Every semester we will be offering new groups and new topics and every parishioner will be invited to attend the ones that meet their spiritual and scheduling needs. We are going to recommend that each parishioner participate in at least one Discipleship Group series per calendar year—and know that any topics you miss will most likely be covered every few years. We are in this for the long haul!


Connect Groups are permanent groups of 40-60 people who commit to walking the journey of discipleship together on a forever-basis. Alpha Groups and Discipleship Groups are great at fostering community but their time-limited and topic-driven nature prevents the kind of life-long spiritual friendships that are vital to growing as a joyful missionary disciple. Connect Groups meet once or twice a month in members’ homes and include a simple potluck meal, the sharing of a testimony, and prayer. Group members take responsibility for holding members accountable for their growth in discipleship and hold each other in prayer constantly. The Connect Group is the model of Church most closely related to that of the Early Church—because they work! Our hope is that after experiencing Alpha members will commit to journeying with a Connect Group. The parish currently has one Connect Group, formed of early Alpha Course Participants, and will be expanding in the next few months. We also offering a modified Connect Group to help meet the needs of parishioners aged 18-30. The parish also has fraternal organizations like the Knights of Columbus and St. Vincent de Paul. Some parishioners may find that participation in one of these fraternal organizations (note that these are different from parish ministries in that members make a commitment to support each other and to grow in holiness together) meets the need for a Connect Group but others will choose to be involved in both—we recommend consulting with the Pastor to see which option is best for you!


The Catholic Church has, in the Liturgy, the Sacraments and many spiritual traditions, inexhaustible ways to connect with our God! It is important that every member of the community have a robust prayer life that includes weekly attendance at the Liturgy and regular reception of the Sacraments. To help foster growth in joyful missionary discipleship the parish will offer various opportunities to experience Christ in prayer. It is expected that all parishioners will take advantage of these opportunities to grow their prayer lives. The Eucharist has been described as “the source and summit” of our faith. All of our invitations and small groups mean nothing if they don’t lead to an encounter with God in the Sacraments! Similarly, all of the good we do serving in the community is meaningless if it doesn’t flow from an authentic encounter with the Lord


In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est¸ Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.” No experience of Jesus Christ as powerful as the In his encyclical Deus Caritas Est¸ Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.” No experience of Jesus Christ as powerful as the Eucharist can be contained to one hour on Sunday—the Eucharist compels us to go out and share the love of God in the community! In fact, you’ve probably noticed that the parish vision team chose to write the following quote from Pope Francis over the exit to the Church: “We cannot calmly and passively wait in our Church buildings. We must be a Church which goes forth.” Eucharist can be contained to one hour on Sunday—the Eucharist compels us to go out and share the love of God in the community! 
All members of the Community, once they have been established on the path of discipleship and have a robust prayer life and concrete understanding of the faith are then expected to serve the community, and especially the poor, in some way!