STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (01-05-20). Here are just a few tag lines you will see when googling Catholic Small Groups:
- Small Groups – where our “great big church” becomes a “great small church.”
- Small Groups – developing deep rooted relationships with God and each other.
- Small Groups – going beyond Sunday Mass.
- Small Groups – Belong, Grow, Serve.
With this growing movement in the Catholic Church, Small Groups are an important part of growing discipleship, especially in a large church where you may only know a few people who go to the same Mass that you do each Sunday. Our Small Groups are the way we LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS and MAKE DISCIPLES.
Small Groups follow the same message series that we hear in the homilies on Sunday. The Small Groups then see a video presentation followed by a guided discussion on what God’s Word says on that topic, approaching it through their own experiences. Group members are challenged to become authentic about what’s really going on in their lives in a safe and supportive place. Our members pray for one another, care for one another, and develop friendships with other growing disciples.
Small Groups are made up of 5-12 people who meet to discuss faith, going deeper in the weekly message, and supporting one another in their growing relationship with Christ. While prayer is an important part of our Small Group environments, they are not Prayer Groups, they are not Bible Studies and they are not Adult Education classes. Our Small Groups are the place to connect with other growing disciples in a relational and personal environment.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (11-03-19). Grateful, Generous, Giving – “You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God, for the administration of this public service is not only supplying the needs of the holy ones but is also overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God.” [2 Corinthians 9:11-12]
There are hundreds of scripture passages about generosity and why we, as disciples, are called to be generous givers of our time and our treasure. St. Paul sums up chapter 9 in 2 Corinthians with the perfect prayer:
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” [2 Corinthians 9:15]
Missions is how we serve outside the parish; sharing our gifts to help provide a hand-up to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Parishioners recently had the opportunity to meet with members of our Missions Committee and other missions volunteers to find out how you can give some of your time in grateful generosity.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (08-11-19). Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is also the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award-winning documentary about the Catholic Faith, which aired on PBS.
Bishop Barron is a #1 Amazon bestselling author and has published numerous books, essays and articles on theology and the spiritual life. He is a religion correspondent for NBC and has appeared on FOX NEWS, CNN and EWTN, as well.
Bishop Barron is one of the most followed Catholics in the world on social media:
He wrote a book about the abuse crisis in the Church as a response to his own feelings of betrayal and anger. The abuse scandal has gripped the Catholic Church for the past thirty years, and continues to wreak havoc even today. It has been a diabolical masterpiece, one that has compromised the work of the Church in every way and has left countless lives in ruins. Many Catholics are understandably asking, “Why should I stay? Why not abandon this sinking ship before it drags me or my children uner?”
In this stirring manifesto, Bishop Barron explains why this is not the time to leave, but the time to stay and fight. Reading the current crisis through the lenses of Scripture and Church History, Bishop Barron shows that we have faced such scandals before; that the spiritual treasures of the Church were preserved by holy men and women who recommitted themselves to fighting evil; and that there is a clear path forward for us today.
For Catholics questioning their faith, searching desperately for encouragement and hope, this book will offer reasons to stay and fight for the Body of Christ.
We have purchased 100 copies of Letter to a Suffering Church which are available at the information booth for a small donation of $2.00 each. Our small group leaders are invited to pick up books to use for a two-week study of the book, as well as a study guide for discussion with your group. Books are available on a first come, first serve basis beginning August 10.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (06-22-19). Paul Wilkes, Catholic author and speaker, was a mission speaker at Ascension several years ago. He spoke about a mission he founded in India, Home of Hope, providing homes for abused, orphaned and neglected girls. He has dedicated most of his adult career to helping the poor through the works of the Catholic Church. He has also written many books on parish engagement and how we, as the Catholic laity, can make a difference in the world. His premise is that the great work of the Church begins with each one of us and the work we do in our home parish. Here are two premises from his book, The Seven Secrets of Successful Catholics:
Successful Catholics are Proud Enough of the Parish to Represent It Well
- “Successful parishioners are ambassadors for their parish. While admitting the parish still has much more to do to meet the needs of its people, the community and the world, they speak in positive terms about what their parish is doing. Without being boastful, they are proud of their parish’s accomplishments, presence in the community, and the plans for the future.”
- “They are not shy about proclaiming they are Catholic and living out their Catholicism in a specific place. They mention their parish in conversation at work or among friends. They might even mention it at the hardware store or at the supermarket, when appropriate-with appropriate pride. They are proud of their parish and they want others to know about it, not so much that they will get a pat on the back, but that others will know that there is a place where people in the community are attempting, with God’s ever-present help, to live better lives and make this world a better place.”
Successful Catholics are Not Members, But Disciples
- “Membership has a static sound to parishioners. Quite frankly, just sitting in the pew is not good enough for them. Attending or ‘doing their obligation’ is not sufficient for this most important part of their life.”
- “They probably would be the last ones to call themselves disciples, but that’s what they are. They are trying to live a life that mirrors the life of Christ, for they see Christ as ‘the way, the truth and the life.’ They are trying to let others in on the wonderful, dynamic lifestyle that can be theirs. They are not simply members of some sort of comfortable club that makes no demands on them. Just going through the motions is too shallow for them.”
- “Discipleship, not membership, characterizes how they choose to live a Catholic life within their parish and in their everyday life. As Christ saw needs in the world and tried to meet them, so do the successful parishioners who are not afraid to proclaim Christ’s message-no, not with words, but with their actions. They are not content to be preservers of an institution, but rather, practitioners of a way of life.”
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (05-26-19). Why are the Mass Times Changing? Next weekend, we will begin our new Mass schedule. This is a positive change for the life and health of our parish for several reasons, which are explained in this article. One of the most obvious reasons is that a Mass with full pews generates a feeling that “this is the place to be!” The warm and welcoming atmosphere of a full Church creates a feeling of community.
During season and the holidays, our parking lot could be chaotic with only thirty minutes between the Masses. With the new daytime Mass schedule, there will be an hour between Masses and parking will be easier and readily available.
The new Mass schedule makes better use of our resources of time, talent and treasure. Scheduling our weekend ministers, music ministry, liturgical ministries, as well as clergy, will be more efficient and effective.
This new schedule also allows us to provide Children’s Liturgy of the Word at two Masses; the 10:00 am and 12 Noon, while still having children’s religious education in between. We are excited about growing our children’s programs and being a parish that is welcoming to young families.
Change is never easy but the decision to eliminate one daytime Mass was made after much planning, discussion, study of other parishes of our size, and PRAYER. Being together in the Mass, the greatest communal prayer of the Church, is a blessing. We will meet and greet new faces from the merged Masses! How wonderful will that be!
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (02-24-19). “Church” – is it a noun or a verb? When Jesus Christ established “church” over 2000 years ago, did He intend it to mean buildings or communities of action? Our parish mission statement asks us to “Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples” and is a statement of action. It is a challenge to us, as Catholic Christians to “be church,” and to “be church” to others. We must get out of the pew, out of our own personal prayers and often, out of our comfort zone to bring others to Jesus. That was the last commandment from Jesus before He ascended into heaven.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” [Mt 28:19-20]
We cannot keep this command with an hour of Mass on Sunday only. Instead, we are charged with bringing others, sharing with others, and inspiring others. We have to “be church” to encourage others to want to know Jesus.
One reason that we embarked on the “Rebuilt” journey several years ago was to challenge our parish to reach out to the lost through a relevant message and mission. This has taken much work and planning. However, the church must continually step outside the “easy” way, the comfort zone, because growth and comfort cannot coexist.
One of the great challenges for the Church is how to remain relevant in today’s largely secular society. We can’t profess our faith every Sunday at Mass if we aren’t willing to “be and share” our faith. Take some time this week to reflect on these questions:
- How can I be “church” to others?
- How can I step out of my comfort zone to love God, love others and make disciples?
- Am I open to changing the church to being church?
Invite someone to hear our Lenten message series, Attitude Adjustment. It begins the weekend of March 9 and 10. The whole church is on message together when we are in Mass and we listen to the wonderful homilies. In our small groups, the message is then explored on a deeper, more personal level.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (01-13-19). Great Faith Grows In Small Groups! Next weekend, members of our small groups will be inside the Family Center to share the good news about joining a small group. Small Groups are where our Big Church becomes Small and Personal. Our message series, The Story of Your Life, reminds us that our own stories are centered around our relationship with God that we, in turn, find through our relationship with others.
The whole church is on message together when we are in Mass and we listen to the wonderful homilies. In our small groups, the message is then explored on a deeper, more personal level.
We like to say that Jesus formed the first small group when He called His Disciples. They ate together, prayed together and lifted each other up in their ministry. Our small groups do the very same thing! Our small groups become a first source of care and outreach when one of the members is experiencing a life event, whether it is a time of joy, sorrow or need. Our small groups become a part of the stories of our lives.
You don’t have to know anything about Scripture. You will not be asked to pray out loud or share if you don’t feel like sharing. You won’t be judged for what you do share with the group. You WILL find authentic relationships, a safe place to share, and people who will make you feel connected. You WILL grow in your personal faith and your relationship with Christ!
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (11-18-18). Our new message series, Expecting Miracles, began on Sunday, November 25th and continues through Advent. The message will be presented during the homily at our weekend Masses and will be explored further in our small groups on a deeper, more personal level during the week. This is a perfect time to try out a small group! You can simply Information Booth after Mass to sign up. You can also call JoAnne Cianfichi at 443-474-9588 for additional information or CLICK HERE to complete a brief Small Group Interest Form and we will be glad to contact you.
The incarnation was a miracle. God became flesh through Mary’s ascent to become the Mother of God. Through the Christmas story, the people who expect miracles are acutely aware of God’s presence in their lives, experience the joy, the miracle of the Incarnation. During this series, this season of Advent, we will encourage you to “EXPECT MIRACLES” as we embrace the mystery of how God works in our lives.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (10-28-18). It’s the perfect time to join a small group! Several new groups have recently formed that are just waiting for you. We have a new Thursday night mixed group that meets in the Family Center and a mixed/couples group that will meet on Tuesday night in the hosting couple’s home. Many of our other small groups have open spots as well. Just stop by at the Info Booth after Mass to check out the group and time that best fits your schedule.
The new small group series, “The Harvest Principle,” is four weeks long, exploring how our decisions affect our faith life. It is said that “you reap what you sow.” Our present circumstances are largely determined by our past choices and decisions. We reap the small choices and decisions in the present that we have made in the past. Throughout the series we will explore this principle: how we can get it working for us and how it interplays with grace. The series ends with Stewardship Sunday late in November, where we will learn how investing in God’s Kingdom will reap the eternal rewards of His return. CLICK HERE to preview this series.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (9-28-18). The message in our series Next S.T.E.P.S. is about service. Asking for our parishioners to step up and serve has been part of our message for the last few years, so this message should be familiar, but worth repeating. Your service WITHIN the parish is Ministry. When you serve OUTSIDE the parish in the greater community, that is Mission. Our mission statement: “Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples” is more than just words; it is a direct command from Jesus. These words become faith in action only if Ascension is a parish of welcome, hospitality and outreach. To fulfill that mission, we need YOU! Each and every one of us has an impact on how we are perceived by a new member, visitor, or the greater community. We all share the responsibility of what we want our church to be and what our church will be to others. When you greet someone you don’t know at Mass, share a little conversation or even a smile, you make an impact on the impression this person takes away from our parish. YOU make the difference!
YOU make the difference whether or not there is a greeter at the door to welcome our weekend guests to Mass. YOU make a difference whether or not there is a warm smile or helpful hand in the Holy Grounds Cafe. YOU can make a difference when you serve Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. YOU can make a difference in the life of a family in need when you serve at a Family Promise weekend. YOU can make a difference when you pack food for the homeless and hungry. Stop by the Information Booth after Mass to find out how YOU can serve in ministry or mission at Ascension.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (9-1-18). Welcome to September! Many parishioners and volunteer ministers have picked up a copy of Rebuilt and are reading the story of a Catholic parish in Timonium, Maryland. The Church of the Nativity has become a model for growth in ministry, mission and message, not just at Ascension, but world-wide. We still have lots of books available at the Information Booth; just $3 each or FREE if you are actively involved in ministry or mission work in the parish.
On September 15 we will begin a new message series called Next S.T.E.P.S. that will be heard not only as the message in our small groups, but also during the homily. This series is an acronym to describe our faith development. Our faith is a journey that we will not complete in this life; a journey that requires us to keep taking our next step. In this series, we will look at the five major STEPS we believe are necessary to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ:
God can draw a person closer to Him at any step, at any time. Therefore, it is important to note that even though S.T.E.P.S. is an acronym, the steps are fluid and can occur in any order, often cycling around in various ways, in different times throughout one’s life. The series presentation follows this format as a way to remind us of the STEPS we take as we journey with Jesus.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (8-19-18). Our order of Rebuilt books has arrived! They can be picked up or purchased after weekend Masses at the Information Booth, or during the week in our Parish Office which is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. We are offering the book for the low price of just $3, which is our cost. If you are actively involved in ministry or missions, we are offering the book for free! Thank you for your service.
We want every parishioner to read Rebuilt, to become aware of why we have embraced this proven program for our parish. Nearly every weekend we ask you to step up to ministry in the opening video and in our bulletin. The following excerpt from Chapter 11 of Rebuilt is the reason why we ask:
“Everyone, not just the Missionaries of Charity, can do something beautiful for God … This is the future – this is God’s wish for us – to serve through love in action.” St. Teresa of Calcutta
Ministry goes deeper than just helping out. It expresses the work by which Christ’s mission continues, so it is basic to discipleship and evangelization. To create the vibrant environment that motivates our members to grow, they’ve got to serve. To be a place of energy and excitement that is irresistible to outsiders, we’ve got to get insiders out of the pews. Visitors, guests and newcomers are served. Members are serving them as well as one another. Not instantly, not initially, but eventually we would like every member to join a ministry team and serve our Church family and community. Our goal is simply, every member is a minister.
Jesus insisted on the support and assistance of His disciples throughout His ministry. From the miracle of the loaves and fish, to raising Lazarus from the dead, those around Him were pressed into service to help Him. They were expected to assist. Consistently, Jesus would do His part after the disciples did what they could. Ministry is supposed to be a team sport.
The same thing was true in the early church – the apostles filled their role and looked to the church members to take an active part of their own. Paul says, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you received in the Lord.” [Col 4:17]
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (7-12-18). Summer season in Florida and attendance at Mass is noticeably lighter. Even though our parish is not as seasonal as it used to be, other things seem to get in the way of coming to Mass. We still have six Masses every weekend and still need a minimum of 20 volunteer ministers at each Mass! So, especially this summer, we want to encourage all of our year-round parishioners to get involved!
- Step up to participation in a ministry (greeter, host minister, information booth, Holy Grounds Cafe, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion). CLICK HERE to complete a Ministry Interest Form and we will be happy to discuss opportunities that work within your schedule. If you prefer, CLICK HERE to download the form, fill it out and drop it off at the Information Booth, the Parish Office or in the weekend collection basket.
- Find out more about our missions projects and volunteer to serve. CLICK HERE for all the details!
- Invite a friend of family member to Mass to hear our great new message series: LIARS, CHEATERS, COWARDS AND OTHER BIBLE HEROES.
- Try a small group this summer and dive deeper into our new message series. You can stop by the Information Booth after Mass to sign up. You can also call JoAnne Cianfichi at 443-474-9588 for additional information or CLICK HERE to complete a brief Small Group Interest Form.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (6-3-18). We have had three consecutive weeks of significant Solemnities—Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and now the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, better known by the name of Corpus Christi, which translates from the Latin as the “Body of Christ.” Clearly this is a celebration which brings our focus on the Eucharist, which is at the absolute center of our liturgy, and at the core of our Catholic faith. We have mentioned many times that all revolves around the Eucharist when we receive the real Body and Blood of the Lord.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1324), “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.”
The Eucharist should be the high point of our week, or even of our day. The author J.R.R. Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy), who was a devout Catholic, once stated, “The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.” (reflection for June 3, 2018 – www.catholicsteward.com)
We are the Body of Christ, the Church alive in the world today to carry on the mission that Jesus commanded. By serving in weekend ministry, YOU are the Body of Christ in action. When YOU serve in a mission project, Christ is serving those in need.
You can make a difference and become the Body of Christ in action! Consider serving as a minister of hospitality, helping in the Holy Grounds Cafe or sharing your time assisting parishioners and guests at the Information Booth. Please take a few moments this week and think about giving just a little bit of your time once a month at a weekend Mass. You can call the parish office at 561-997-5486 or contact via Email and we would be glad to help you find the opportunity that is right for you! You can also complete and submit our Ministry Interest Form. If you prefer, CLICK HERE to download the form, fill it out and drop it off at the Information Booth, the Parish Office or in the weekend collection basket.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (5-27-18). Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day. This special article, written by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., is a reminder to all of us that we celebrate more than just the last day of a three-day weekend, filled with barbeques and beach-time. Memorial Day is a day for gratitude and reflection on the blessings of our liberty and freedom in America.
SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM – by Cardinal Donald Wuerl –http://cardinalsblog.adw.org/ –Memorial Day weekend is thought of as the “first weekend of summer,” but it is also so much more. Here in and around the nation’s capital, we have many particular reminders of why the day was founded. For example, Arlington National Cemetery and memorials on the National Mall are destinations for many Americans to remember and pray for those who gave their lives – including lost loved ones – in military action so that we might live in security and freedom.
What we know as Memorial Day began after the Civil War as a day to remember those who died in battle, who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the good of the country. It was in 1971 that this day became a national holiday.
Precisely as Christians, Memorial Day ought to have a special place on our calendars too, just as does All Souls Day in November. Visiting memorials, laying wreaths and praying at grave sites are deeply Christian practices. It is an act of fidelity and of hope to pray that those who have died will be welcomed by our Lord into everlasting life. Praying for those who have given their lives in service to our country is also a reminder of the sacrificial nature of Christian love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” is the ultimate expression of love as expressed by Jesus Christ in teaching and in example (John 15:13).
War is truly a tragedy. Therefore, as we acknowledge that sometimes defensive war is a just response to protect human life from grave evils; honoring our fallen service members is also a cause for reflecting on the responsibility we share to strive for the common good and the pursuit of peace everywhere. (from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2263-65, 2302-17). The whole human family constitutes an important single society which must be the concern of all nations. We dare not ignore or should we be silent about those in other lands suffering from the agonies of war thinking that it has nothing to do with us. War is not just a national crisis, it is a human crisis.
Peace is so great a gift, and war is so great an evil, that every effort must be made in pursuit of peace. Such a commitment helps to explain why so many good men and women serve in the military – to bring and keep the peace.
This Memorial Day, in addition to prayers of remembrance, intercession and thanksgiving, we can also honor our dead by our commitment to bring the light of peace and truth, hope and justice to all parts of our lives and communities.
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (5-20-18). Sunday, May 20th was Pentecost Sunday, the 50th day after Easter. Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church. As we hear in scripture, today is the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ followers.
Jesus calls His followers to be missionaries. The Latin root word for missionary is derived from the original Greek word, apostolos, which means “one sent forth.” Obviously, we get the word apostle, from that as well; defined as one who attempts to persuade or convert. It involves the apostle or disciple working in ministry inside the Church and in mission out in the greater community. Jesus spoke these words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” That includes each and every one of us. We, as disciples, are sent! Being “sent” means that we live out our Catholic faith in everything we do. That is the best way to evangelize; to let those around us know what it means to be a Christian and a follower of Christ, a disciple.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made the following statement about what it means to evangelize: “There are two elements of evangelization at work: 1. Witness, which is the simple living out of the faith, and 2. Sharing, which is spreading the Good News of Jesus.” Do we follow the commands given to us by the Lord? Are we example of what it means to be a Catholic and Christian? Do we truly share the Good News in word and in action? (Excerpts taken from www.catholicstewarship.com)
STEP UP TO DISCIPLESHIP – by Cindy Nau (4-22-18). Last week, we were challenged to “Invest & Invite” as part of our mission to Love God, Love Others and Make Disciples here at Ascension. The premise of this proven program is based on relationship: you are invested in relationships with family and friends, you want to bring them to Jesus and His Word, you invite them to Church. A personal invitation lets that person know that you believe and that you care.
Jesus instructed His disciples to “go and make disciples.” That makes us “growing disciples” who are asked to “grow disciples.” We bring them to Church because WE ARE THE CHURCH. We bring them into community; into a body of believers.
Fr. Michael White, Pastor of Church of the Nativity and author of Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost and Making Church Matter says this, “Without Christ-centered friendships, our walk of faith will most certainly be a slower, less steady one, and we’re far more likely to fall and fall. When we have friendships in which Christ is the center, we connect with Him in a way we will not on our own. In other words, we grow in faith relationally.”
Yes, “Invest & Invite” is evangelization in the most personal form. Pope Paul VI wrote Evangelii Nuntiandi (The New Evangelization) in 1975. His words were bold and groundbreaking at that time in the Church, but still ring true today. For the Church to grow and thrive, we need to remember that WE ARE THE CHURCH. It just might be our invitation that will bring someone to Christ.
We want everyone to know what’s going on and get engaged in all that we are doing. PARISH ENGAGEMENT leads to DISCIPLESHIP!