Those who participated in the March First Friday Club of Cleveland virtual program heard an energetic, engaging presentation by Miguel Chavez, who heads the Office of Missionary Discipleship for the Diocese of Cleveland.
His topic was “The Captivating and Curious Posture of JOY: How we are Called to Live as Missionary Disciples.”
Chavez, who began his role with the diocese in January 2020, has 20-plus years’ experience in ministry and education, including campus ministry and mission implementation.
“This is the most commanding day of the year: March forth,” he quipped, noting the program took place on March 4.
Chavez’s talk focused on three areas: being a missionary disciple, a posture of joy and what that means for parishes today.
He said Pope Francis calls each of us to be missionary disciples by virtue of our baptism. The apostles were so moved by Jesus that they went out to share their story with others. “Missionary disciples are in love with Jesus,” he said. “When we’re in love with someone, we always desire to be in that person’s presence.”
Chavez used the analogy of a recent plumbing problem at his house, pointing out how amazed he was that such a little bit of water could saturate everything. “Christ’s love is like that,” he explained. “Have you felt restless over the past year? St. Augustine tells us that our hearts are restless until we find our anchor in God.”
As evangelists, we are roving storytellers – each with a story to tell: Jesus died, rose from the dead and yearns to be in a relationship with each of us.
“Our good news is liberating and joy-filled. It’s a freedom found only in Christ,” he said, adding that the world is hungry to hear, encounter and experience this.
During this time of pandemic, Chavez said the use of technology has shifted the landscape, but the task remains the same.
He described seeing a cardinal in a bush through the eyes of his toddler son, noting how delighted he was, laughing and dancing. Chavez compared this to a moment of grace. We are called to a relationship with Christ and should not miss an opportunity. “The Holy Spirit brings us together like magnets,” he said.
Chavez shared a simple prayer he recites daily: “Lord, I’m yours,” noting who we are and what we’re about belongs to God. We are called to be a part of that, to be engaged.
The way we share our story – in a posture of joy – should be exciting and captivating. He used the analogy of children on a playground who let their imaginations guide their play. They are loud, curious and enticing. “As a parent, I couldn’t help but be drawn in,” he said. “Apply this to our faith. Our faith should encourage us to be like those children: bold, loud, curious and enticing. Never miss an opportunity to share Christ’s message.”
His office is always on the move, he explained. “Like a fire, it consumes whatever it touches as it grows.” Much of the work is about people on the peripheries and we must take advantage of opportunities to nurture a sense of belonging in them, he said.
Chavez shared the story of a young nurse he spoke to recently who said she was feeling empty. One night, on her drive home, she listened to night prayer from a parish in the diocese. “She said it was the first time she felt connected to something greater. The community needs its fire stoked and our parishes need to feed them so they can breathe the oxygen of renewal in their hearts. We’re all called to be roving storytellers. Are you ready to do that?” Chavez asked.
When asked how to engage young people, he said it’s important to invite them in, especially families with young children because they have a lot to give. He said invite them to Mass and to parish events as they return. Inviting them to attend and to help are ways to engage them.
“People may be bashful; they may need to be asked or invited. We need to bridge that gap,” he added. Another suggestion was to introduce yourself to someone you don’t recognize. “We can’t be navel gazers; we need to reach out.”
He mentioned the nurse who listened to night prayer, explaining that he contacted her to see how they could connect. “We have to focus our gaze outward,” Chavez said.
The next program – at noon April 8 on Zoom – will feature J. Michael Presimone, president of Notre Dame College, speaking on “Living the Mission: Catholic Higher Education in a Secular World.” Click here for more information or to register.