Forming Intentional Disciples: A Day in the Life of a St. William Parishioner

{St. William of Vercelli Catholic Church – Round Rock, Texas – Austin Diocese }

Ain’t she a beaut? Sometimes I find myself minding my own business when God the Father will put an idea into my head. Depending on how quickly I allow the Holy Spirit to move through me and help me carry out the Father’s orders, I will spend time discerning how best to achieve what He wants. This time I was driving home from church the other day when I was struck with the idea to share what it’s like to be a parishioner at my church. My first reaction was How do I write about that!?? Then it hit me. Our priests and staff are invested in the book that Sherry Weddell wrote, Forming Intentional Disciples. I read the book back in January at Father Jonathan’s request of the Pastoral Council. Realizing that this post could be ridiculously long showing you all the things that go on in our parish, I want to limit it to just a few. 

First, the stats:

  • St. William of Vercelli Catholic Church – first Mass said in 1916 in the home of the Carlin family
  • In the Diocese of Austin
  • Under the guidance of Father Dean Wilhelm
  • Associate pastors Fr. Uche Andeh from South East Nigeria and Fr. Alex Caudillo from Mexico
  • First assignment of Father Jonathan Raia and his refreshing homily on contraception
  • Currently the largest parish in the diocese
  • 6,000+ registered families
  • 20,000+ parishioners
  • Over 150 ministries alive and thriving on this campus
  • Home to a solid RCIA program that gives catechumens and candidates the essence of the Church’s teachings through the Kerygma
  • Home to our Adult Faith Formation program, Jesus Is Lord, which is rooted in the Kerygma
  • SWYM {St. William Youth Ministry} – our high school program led by Chris Bartlett. The Kerygma can be found in the core program – additional leadership and “dig deeper” programs are offered for students who are hungry to learn outside of the core SWYM program. Public, private, and homeschooled kiddos attend SWYM and weekly attendance for the 2012-13 saw in excess of 350 teens.
  • TRIUMPH {middle school} – faith formation for our middle school crowd run by Chris’ talented sister, Gwen Bartlett. The Kerygma is found in this program as well. Stats for the current 2013-14 year were at 221 with an anticipated 30% increase in registration.
  • Elementary faith formation is currently introducing the Kerygma into the curriculum
  • The phrase faith formation replaces religious education or CCD at our parish – the primary reason is that we are in formation throughout our entire lives. Just as seminarians go through formation in discernment of the priesthood, so we as the laity are continually putting our faith into practice using what we have learned. We are not concerned only with head knowledge, but learning and implementing concepts that help us to become intentional disciples of Christ.
  • FISCHE {Families in Support of Catholic Home Education} is thriving at our parish. It is a homeschool network open to diocesan families that is bursting at the seams and filled with families who are seeking support in their homeschool mission of being the primary educators of the Faith.

We have been parishioners of St. William for over seven years. I used to attend this same parish as a kidlet when I visited my aunt and uncle’s house back in the day. This current church was not yet built, but the older parish was just down the road. This parish and its community are very near and dear to my heart.

At our size, we are constantly fighting the stigma of “big church.” I think we can all agree that it makes sense to have smaller parishes so that families are more intimately connected to one another. But, sometimes you just have to make do with what you have, and create an environment that is welcoming to those on the periphery of parish life, whether by choice or not.

I understand what it’s like to be on the outside of parish life and disconnected, because that’s how we spent the first three years of our time at St. William. An introvert by design, the thought of purposely going anywhere to ::gasp:: meet people sounded like my worst fear realized. God is always good, though, and a patient Father. Slowly, He instilled that desire in my heart to essentially get over myself and get into parish life. I was paralyzed with fear, afraid to speak up at Pastor’s Talks initially, but my commitment to be involved outweighed my fear of talking to others. For those of you who are intimidated by larger parishes, trust me – I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m going to challenge you and ask that you get out of your comfort zone for a reason.

Here’s a snapshot of what happened one Thursday, though not all the events are of my day – I’m somewhere in there, though. It will give you a smallish idea of what’s going on at our parish. Ready?

My oldest and two of her friends went to daily Mass. They are members of a subgroup of FISCHE called FISCHETeen {which is wildly popular, by the way!} and Father Uche had called on them to meet for lunch afterward to gather some intel on a talk he has coming up for their retreat in which he will talk about teens and social media. I may or may not have also sent him my recent post on the same topic for him to compare notes. 😉

{Why talk when they can chat via iMessage?}

After the girls got back from their lunch, they came back to our house. I had just wrapped up things with homeschooling and prepped for the start/domino effect that is the kiddo activities. The ominous phrase IT BEGINS!!!!! ran through my head. Between juggling the blog and the start of the homeschool year, allowing for the oldest to pursue her parish pursuits, it was time for me to attend the parent meeting and register the middle daughter for American Heritage Girls. This also translates into seeing friends outside of Mass and catching up. Once petrified of socializing, I look forward to seeing everyone and saying hello!

{Friend Jennifer M. handles electronic registration for AHG with bambino in tow}

After a mad dash home {yes, we live two minutes from the parish}, I quickly change and “gussy up” a bit before my husband and I both set out for Orientation Night for our Adult Faith Formation class, Jesus Is Lord.

::nerd alert::

I love love LOVE Orientation Night!

Each Thursday during the semester the campus is abuzz with adults filing in for their respective classes and electives. It’s like a small college campus! This is my seventh semester attending AFF and six of those spent facilitating, a volunteer job I thoroughly enjoy. Friend and author of If Protestantism Is True, Devin Rose, is teaching a class on Scripture this semester as part of our electives!

{Father Uche knocked it out of the ballpark with his breakdown of each word – ADULT. FAITH. FORMATION.}

I’d like to close with a project that’s been in the works {discernment, prayer, and logistics} for quite some time. Starting next Wednesday, September 18, 2013, I will cover each class of the Jesus Is Lord course. Many many people from all over the nation have asked me about this program. I am excited to finally be able to share it. Stay tuned, friends!

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