ChristLife at OLBH

by Joni Osnes, Adult Faith Formation Coordinator, Our Lady of the Black Hills

In 2016 Bishop Gruss addressed the people of the Diocese of Rapid City with his pastoral letter entitled Through Him, With Him, and in Him.  The bishop expressed his desire for this diocese to become a diocese with a real mission.  For this vision to become a reality, he felt it was important to develop a priority plan for the diocese.  Bishop Gruss invited us to engage and embrace the Diocesan Priority Plan so that, as our Sacred Mission states, we can “attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly, and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.”

As the Adult Faith Formation Coordinator at Our Lady of the Black Hills and in response to Bishop Gruss’ challenge, I began researching programs and processes that were available so that we could form these intentional disciples.  In many ways, I think the Holy Spirit was prompting me to choose a process called ChristLife, an evangelization process that began in Archdiocese of Baltimore in the 1990s.  Specifically, when my husband John retired in April 2017, we planned a trip to celebrate.  I discovered that we would be in the Baltimore area precisely when the National Training Conference for ChristLife was scheduled.  This was a process I had looked at a year before and thought might be a good fit for our parish.  We registered and attended and came from that conference with excitement and resolve to get that process going.  We were encouraged by the other participants of the conference who had experience with this process.

ChristLife is an evangelization process with three seven-week sessions: Discovering Christ, Following Christ, and Sharing Christ. Each session includes a one-day retreat. “ChristLife equips Catholics for the essential work of evangelization so others might personally encounter Jesus and be transformed into his missionary disciples.”

In the first seven weeks, Discovering Christ encourages personal conversion and encounters with Christ.  This session is a place where Catholics can bring friends, family and acquaintances, who are searching for the meaning of life to encounter Jesus Christ.  It is a time of prayer through word and song, sharing a meal, building community, and sharing the Good News. After the fourth session participants are asked to make a personal commitment to become a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ.  At Our Lady of the Black Hills we launched Discovering Christ in September 2017 and finished just before Thanksgiving.  Twenty-one participants completed the first seven sessions.

In the second seven-week session, Following Christ, participants who had experienced the joys of a personal relationship with Jesus and with each other were supported and encouraged to continue growing with Christ and with each other.  Following Christ is a basic course in Catholic discipleship that includes topics such as: daily prayer, Sacred Scripture, the power of the sacraments, forgiveness, the Spirit-empowered life, spiritual warfare, and advancing the Church’s mission. This session was started after Christmas and concluded at the end of February. One participant remarked how she felt released from heaviness and anger when the group did a prayer experience on forgiveness.

Finally, the third seven-week session called Sharing Christ began the first week after Easter.  I have found that Catholics are intimidated by the word “evangelize.”  I know that I had never been trained on how I could share my faith in Jesus Christ with others.  Sharing Christ is designed to equip Catholics with the practical skills to proclaim the Gospel, draw others into a relationship with Jesus, and invite them to discipleship as Baptized members of the Church.

As we began this seven-week session, participants were encouraged to write and to share their witness stories.  It was amazing to hear how participants were becoming more aware of Christ’s presence in their lives.  The personal witness and testimony of Christ working in their lives that were shared during this time served to encourage all who attended to share their stories with others.  One participant shared how God was working to enrich her marriage.

I have found that I must share the Good News with others because it is not an option.  In His last words to His disciples, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”   I can no longer claim to be an introvert and that talking to others is hard; by my Baptism, I am called to evangelize, to share the Good News.

This first group of ChristLife participants will be invited to share what they have experienced when the series will be offered to all parish members this fall.  The teachings of Sharing Christ serve to help participants move from being “consumers” to “providers” of the ChristLife series.

John and I heard it may take two or three cycles of the ChristLife series to see the changes in our parish.  We were reminded this is the Lord’s initiative and that He is going to help us find ways to be an evangelizing community. We began this process asking persons to pray for the ChristLife process, and we are confident those prayers are being answered.

written May, 2018



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