From the Interior Life to Apostolate
Following Pope Francis’ mandate to form missionary disciples in his Apostolic Exortation, The Joy of the Gospel, the Apostles of the Interior Life who serve at St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, decided to form an Outreach Team. The Team would be “a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice” as the Pope envisioned. Over the course of five weeks, the students would learn through formative talks, moments of prayer together, practicums, and homework how to bring the Good News to anyone they meet.
Forming the group was easy because it was already a desire that the students themselves had. “I am in an organization on campus and I see so many students who are not involved in their faith and are thirsting for more; I would like to strengthen my ability to reach out to them” remarked one of the students who was happy to be asked to be a part of the Outreach Team. Another student saw how he was growing more deeply in his faith and thus had more desire to spread the Gospel, but he admitted, “I am not sure how.”
Not knowing “how” is a familiar obstacle for many members of the Church, even for the Sisters themselves. That is why in the first meeting the Sisters shared the essential message of any missionary disciple: one’s personal encounter with the Lord and His mercy and love. The students were able to go back to their story of how they met the Lord in a moment of guided prayer and thus discover that they do indeed have “Good News” to share with their friends and the people that they meet.
Sometimes what is missing in the formation of missionary disciples is how to approach and have meaningful conversations with others. Thus, the Outreach Team learned listening and communication skills, which were unpacked in acting out possible scenarios with each other. The students quickly learned in their practicums that the “how-tos” matter only to a certain extent. What is necessary is an intentional and genuine care and love for each person.
The weekly spiritual and apostolic homework for the students became one of the highlights of the meetings. The homework became progressively more challenging in order to help push the students to have conversations outside of their comfort zone; for example, one week they were asked to reach out to a classmate to whom they do not normally talk and take an interest in him or her. It became a sounding board for the others as each person shared their experience at the following meeting. The homework also helped to flush out the fears of failure or rejection that the students experienced, pushing them to bring the people they meet to the Lord in prayer and to ask the Holy Spirit for more opportunities to evangelize. And, it was a way for each person to rejoice in the growth of the others.
When the Outreach Team meetings came to a close, it was just the beginning. The students felt that, even though the school year was ending, they were being sent out to continue the work of sharing Christ with others. In particular, one of the students shared that “the Outreach Team was been a major part of my life this semester and truly transformed the way I view my relationship with Christ and my relationship with my friends, family, and strangers.” The students had become true missionary disciples.