“Encounter, Grow and Witness!” 

This has been our clarion call in the Archdiocese of Detroit as we take up the charge to become a missionary archdiocese. 

In late 2019 and throughout 2020, we took some steps to create avenues — retreats, hearing testimonies and other ways — for anyone in the Archdiocese of Detroit to “encounter” the Lord in power. While the pandemic made these efforts more challenging than we expected, I’ve also heard from a number of people who have encountered Jesus this year. It happened through livestream Masses, personal invitations from their friends and neighbors to join them in a novena, or time of adoration. It also happened through online and in-person gatherings such as Alpha.

After a year of “encounter,” we’ve committed to making 2021 a year focused on the second step: “Grow.”

Once we have met Jesus in power, the hard — but joyful! — work of ordering our lives as his disciples begins. We have said “yes” to his call to follow him, and now we learn what that means. It requires a day-to-day effort and commitment. No matter how challenging it is or how many times we fall and need to recommit ourselves to him, we persevere, knowing that only in Jesus can we find true happiness, true freedom from sin and death, and everlasting joy and peace. 

But we need help in this journey. To aid each of us on our way, the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship is inviting all Catholics to take part in our “Grow Year” in 2021 by doing two simple things:

First, sign up for the “Run So as to Win the Race” Scripture Challenge in 2021.

Whether you are a spiritual couch potato or a Catholic endurance athlete, there is a running team (which we’re calling “guilds”) you can join. You can join the “Blessed Stanley Rother Guild” and commit to reading all four Gospels this year. If you are up for more of a challenge, join the “St. Josephine Bakhita Guild” or the “Blessed Solanus Casey Guild” and read the whole New Testament this year. And those who want to take up the challenge of reading the whole Bible this year can join the “Our Lady of Guadalupe Guild” or the “St. John Paul II Guild.” Some of these guilds have additional commitments to help you grow this year. You can find this information at https://www.unleashthegospel.org/scripture-guilds/.

When you sign up for the challenge, you can print off an easy-to-use guide to place in your Bible. Invite your family and friends, coworkers and social media contacts to join you in this challenge. It’s an easy way to fulfill the call from our archdiocesan Synod ’16 to make the regular reading of the Word of God part of our lives.

The second way to make 2021 a “Grow Year” is to form or join a small group.

Our “Connected in Christ” movement provides all the resources and tools anyone would need to form a small group at a parish, in a neighborhood, or on a digital platform. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need community. We are not meant to be isolated and kept apart from others. When we have to practice social distancing for an extended time, the side effects can be devastating. No one is meant to walk through life alone.

Forming a small group is an easy and fun way to build up the necessary community that we cannot live without. It only requires a few people — four at least — to share our lives together and still practice the needed pandemic precautions. For those who aren’t able to do this in person, small groups can be easily formed online. At our “Connected in Christ” page, you will find resources to form or join a small group in the weeks and months ahead.

With the uncertainty about the rest of the winter months, how quickly each of us will receive a vaccine, and the stress that comes from isolation, we do not need to be passive in our spiritual lives in the new year. By taking up the “Run so as to Win the Race Scripture Challenge” and forming a “Connected in Christ” small group, we can make 2021 a year we grow closer to Christ and store up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

Fr. Stephen Pullis is director of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship.