Discipleship Formation Program students in St. Malo, Man., construct a Nativity scene. Photo from Discipleship Formation Program

Reborn discipleship program aims to grow

  • January 7, 2024

The Catholic School of Evangelization’s (CSE) Discipleship Formation Program (DFP) is experiencing a rebirth in St. Malo, Man.

Upon transforming the old Sisters of the Cross convent into the CSE back in 1992, the program was among the first initiatives enacted to help Christians develop their zeal. However, participation in the DFP waned and its original incarnation shut down in 2008

Nearly 15 years later, there was a desire to relaunch the DFP in the autumn of 2022 as an opportunity mainly for young people who have completed high school and have yet to make any major decisions related toward school, work and vocation. The program is also seen as a fit for older adults seeking spiritual rejuvenation. All participants essentially live in community

Mary and Louis Richard originally joined the DFP last autumn as spiritual companions, but in January 2023 the CSE board asked the Richards if they want to lead the program. Mary felt like it was an answer to one of her prayers to God.

“I remember being at the sink one day preparing supper and I was thinking, ‘Lord, all my kids have left home, and I feel like I have more to offer,’ ” she said. “I offered that up to Him, and it wasn’t long after that we were approached. It seemed to be the right thing to do as it felt like a continuation of parenting, but more on the same level as all these young people. I’m not their parent, but I’m helping to mentor them a little bit and walk with them in their faith journey.”

Each day, Mary and Louis guide their students through a schedule that features Mass or praise and worship, the sacraments, classes, activities (games, fitness, art), fellowship, adoration and meals. Classes — some of which are open to the public — include instruction on the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church teaching on human sexuality, how to be an authentic disciple and how to deepen your spirituality and holiness

“We talk about how each of us can fundamentally let God be my God,” said Louis. “We talk about the stages of spiritual growth through prayer and community life.

“The other large focus is mission. We first learn the need of evangelization and being attached to Jesus Christ. Then, in terms of practicalities, learning to be confident and desirous of sharing your faith with other people and they do that with a youth group in the parish right next door. Starting in January through April, we will be visiting Catholic schools in Winnipeg to share basic faith about how there is a God who loves you and how to enhance your relationship with Him.”

The Richards and the CSE are slowly getting this program off the ground. Five students attended last year and there are three pupils this year. They will be stepping up efforts to build word-of-mouth with the hopes of having 15-20 students enrolled at one time in the DFP in the not-so-distant future.

Akin to Catholic seminaries, the Richards will host a “come and see” weekend from March 22-24. Potential students can come and immerse themselves in the DFP experience for a weekend by attending classes, meals, fellowship and prayer.

Emily Beatty, a DFP attendee in 2022-23 alongside her sisters, gave the program a glowing endorsement in the CSE Vision Newsletter.

“Through my sisters and the community at the DFP, Jesus showed me again just how important it is to seek Him first in everything, to draw close to Him, that I can do nothing if it is without Him, and most importantly, to trust Him.”

To be clear, this program is not influencing its young (or old) participants to follow specific professional or vocational pathways. Rather, it is imbuing them with the wisdom and courage to glorify Jesus Christ in whatever they decide to do.

Ideally, Louis and Mary hope the DFP’s contemplative environment in St. Malo can help a young person discover God’s plan for his or her life.

Two 2022-23 alumnus are attending university part time while three others are saving up money for postsecondary education.

One member from last year, Katrie Vielfaure, is devoting time as a youth outreach leader for the DFP’s current crop of students.

Vielfaure touched on her experience as a DFP student in a recently-released promotional video.

“Since coming to the program at the Catholic School of Evangelization, I have made wholesome and faithful friends, I know so much more about the Catholic faith and I have the tools I need to go out into the world to evangelize. Most importantly, my relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ has only deepened and made me love Him more than ever before.”

See catholicway.net/dfp.

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