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In the garment of discipleship

Bishop Jason Gordon with AEC catechetical directresses Sr Juliet Rajah (from left), Christine Walcott, Sandra Maxwell Williams, Indra Sukhai and Sr Margaret Mary.

The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office hosted a two-day conference September 30–October 1 themed Seamless Garment of Discipleship.  The venue was Signature Hall, Chaguanas and around 250 participants from different parish ministries attended. Present were the head catechists from various AEC dioceses: Christine Walcott of Kingstown, St Vincent; Indra Sukhai of Georgetown, Guyana; Sandra Maxwell Williams of Kingston, Jamaica; and Sr Margaret Mary of Bridgetown, Barbados.

The objectives of the workshop were: to discern vocation so as to live discipleship; to understand the interconnectedness or ‘seamlessness’ of parish ministry; to present  a change in mindset  that would lead to personal transformation; to offer tools to deepen and sustain missionary discipleship; and to appreciate integral development as the vocation of the Church.

The facilitator was Bishop Jason Gordon of Bridgetown. He approached the theme in the context of understanding and living out our vocation. His methodology over the two days ensured that we kept on track. He interspersed his input with table talk, DVD, YouTube clips and group work. He used an inside-out methodology.

Transformation and vocation begins inside of us when we have an encounter with the Living God. He led us to focus on the core of our being which was being “created for a unique purpose”. Each day he used a prayerful approach to begin the session so that we entered the centre of our being, the centre where God exists.

By being aware of God at the centre of our existence, we experience a Holy Call or vocation on our life. This vocation transcends the life call to marriage, priesthood or religious life. It is a call to do something special while on earth.

A participant makes a comment during the presentation. Photos: Jameel Boos

Responding to this call is discipleship.  Discipleship calls us from one place to another. We are constantly called from somewhere to follow Christ until we arrive in a place of Christ. We were challenged to examine our lives to see where we were and where Christ was calling us to be.

Bishop Gordon reminded us that as disciples we are called to inclusivity, our work in parishes must include everyone if we want to live the whole gospel. In one of his many questions he asked us, “What is the best way of transmitting the faith to the next generation?” Bishop Jason reminded us that in the early years, we received the content of faith and somehow we have the fallacy that we can pass the faith on the way we received it. We have not found a way to live the faith in order to pass it on to the next generation. We are therefore challenged to live the faith with integrity. Living out our discipleship includes forming the next generation.

For Lectio Divina, Ephesians 4:1–7 and 11–13 were used.  The passage reminded us of the different gifts given to us, given as Christ allotted it. Bishop Gordon emphasised that whatever hand is dealt to us, we play with all our might. We are unique in all the world. Before we were formed, God gave us a unique gift to fulfil, we have to fulfil our mission.

Bishop Gordon also led us through the Awareness Examen and encouraged us to develop the practice of doing this exercise daily. He also led us through the Johari’s Window as well as the Erik Erickson psychosocial stages.

Some challenging questions included: ‘Who are you?’, ‘What do you do?’, ‘Who do you do it for?’, ‘What do those people need or want most from you?’, ‘How do they change as a result of this?’

The seamless garment is an integral part of pastoral ministry. The heart of our religion is covenant. A covenant is a way of regulating relationship between us and God. We cannot take people where we have not been ourselves or where we do not want to go. He reminded us of our commitment to build a better world by building communities to be inclusive. Discipleship is walking in the feet of Jesus.

Bishop Gordon used an integrated methodology. The sessions were interactive and interesting because of the variety of media used.  This served as an example for how faith should be taught so that participants can own the knowledge and apply it to life situations.

Quoting from Pope Paul VI, he said, authentic integral human development is the vocation of the Church – the development of each person in all dimensions emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical. Our parishes must be in the development business of each parishioner.

The weekend proved different from attendance at other conferences as it included much soul searching reflections. We were fed:
Spiritually: Christian meditation; Lectio Divina; holy Mass; examination of conscience.
Intellectually: Lots of information; references, recommended books
Emotionally: Questions for sharing and reflection
Physically: The sumptuous meals provided.
We thank God for Bishop Gordon and the organisers of the conference.
A participant