Each year, as part of their continuing formation, the priests of the Diocese of Orange gather for three days of study and reflection—the annual Winter Gathering. Last month the topic of the Winter Gathering was spiritual renewal. For three days, more than a hundred priests listened to presenters Sherry Anne Weddell co-director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, and Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest.
Weddell is a co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, which has worked directly with more than 70,000 ordained, religious and lay Catholics in more than 100 dioceses on five continents. She is the author of the book “Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path of Knowing and Following Jesus” (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2012). She challenged the priests to come to terms with important pastoral challenges including:
- only 30 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic are still practicing their faith; and
- 10 percent of all American adults are ex-Catholic.
Weddell called on the priests to connect people with the person of Jesus so they may be taken up into participation in his great story. So parishioners can live their faith in an increasingly secular culture, she gave the priests tools to form them into “intentional disciples.”
“It was a great group and very enthusiastic,” said Weddell of the gathering. “The priests asked lots of fantastic questions and told lots of great stories about what’s happening in their parishes. It sounds like God’s got a lot of good things going on in your diocese.”
Pastor Rick Warren is an internationally recognized leader and the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. He gave the priests a crash course in the art of disciple-making. Using scripture and his many years of experience, he listed the “Eight Laws of Spiritual Formation” and explained each in detail and with practical pastoral suggestions such as, “You gotta have a tough skin with a tender heart.” Priests are supposed to do everything, he said, but he called on priests to be prepared to do what Saint Paul recommend to the Ephesians: “to equip the saints for their work of ministry.” They should prepare the baptized to take on their essential vocation of evangelization.
Pastor Warren, who recently spoke at the Vatican during the Synod on the Family, expressed his affection for our diocesan bishops and what he called the great work of the Catholic Church in Orange County.
Monsignor Heher is the pastor of St. Anne Church in Seal Beach.