September 4, 2020

Evangelization and Catechesis Supplement

Indianapolis parish forms missionary disciples to spread the faith

Carmie Klein, left, and Amanda DeRoche, both members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, pose on Aug. 24 outside the parish church. Klein helped form DeRoche as a missionary disciple through video chats they had online earlier this year during the coronavirus quarantine. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Carmie Klein, left, and Amanda DeRoche, both members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, pose on Aug. 24 outside the parish church. Klein helped form DeRoche as a missionary disciple through video chats they had online earlier this year during the coronavirus quarantine. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Downtown Indianapolis is a mission field for the Church with thousands of young adults moving there in recent years.

St. John the Evangelist Parish, in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, is forming missionary disciples to reach out in faith to these young adults—and anyone else its diverse members come into contact with in their daily lives.

The parish isn’t utilizing a new, cutting-edge evangelization program in its efforts. It seeks instead to follow the example of Christ himself, who invested a lot of time with just 12 disciples. They, in turn, later traveled far and wide, seeking to make disciples of all nations.

Parishioners are invited to attend a five-part workshop on missionary discipleship. They can then enter into one-on-one discipleship relationships for just men or just women in which they enter more deeply into their faith and discover how it relates to their daily lives. They are mentored in this by a fellow parishioner who has received training and has been living the faith intentionally for a long period.

There are other discipleship relationships set up by the parish for couples and people recently received into the full communion of the Church.

The hope of Brian Bibb and Jessica Inabnitt, directors of mission and discipleship for St. John, is to see a growth in discipleship among parishioners, and eventually those outside the faith community, to happen on its own in a process described as “spiritual multiplication.”

“The whole goal is to build a culture of evangelization,” said Bibb. “Hopefully, down the road, this will happen organically where people will have others that they’ll want to reach out to and start to disciple.”

‘The discipleship program inspired me’

It’s starting to happen. In the four years that discipleship relationships have been facilitated in the parish, there have been 91 relationships for men, women and couples. From these, 36 people went on to help others become disciples, and 27 individuals and seven couples are currently in relationships with people just entering into discipleship.

Carmie Klein, 63, is a member of St. John who has had faith at the heart of her life for a long time. A retired interior designer, she has helped form six missionary disciples in the parish.

The most recent one was Amanda DeRoche, 31, a young adult who moved to work and live in downtown Indianapolis eight years ago.

Their discipleship relationship began in March at the start of the quarantine related to the coronavirus pandemic.

That didn’t stop Klein and DeRoche, though. They simply had video chats online during a two-month period.

“She was always good about taking what I was hearing in prayer during that time and applying it to discipleship and to evangelization,” DeRoche said.

Now back at work in a high-rise building in downtown Indianapolis, DeRoche is more intentional about sharing her faith with others, joining with Catholics and other Christians in her workplace to pray.

For her, St. John’s approach to equipping its members to evangelize out in the world was critical to this change in her life.

“It’s incredible being a part of this community, with the vibrancy and the youth of it,” DeRoche said. “The discipleship program inspired me to be more intentional in my faith, especially at work right now. I’m realizing that there’s a need to witness there in our challenging times.”

Klein recognizes the importance of the one-on-one discipleship relationships fostered by St. John.

“I like to look at us in these discipling relationships as strengthening the ligaments of the body of Christ,” she said. “We’re just a small part of the body of Christ. But we’re making it stronger, person by person, ligament by ligament, so that we can be stronger in our faith and in expressing our faith in love, justice and reverence out in the world. That’s what we do.”

‘Investing deeply in a few … for the sake of many’

What St. John the Evangelist Parish has done in its urban context is something that Sean Hussey, archdiocesan coordinator of evangelization and discipleship, thinks can happen in parishes in the suburbs, small towns and rural countryside of central and southern Indiana.

For him, forming lay Catholics in parishes to be missionary disciples can happen in one-on-one relationships or in discipleship groups.

“The foundation of this initiative is to equip the laity to be the primary evangelists in the parish,” Hussey said. “That is the universal principle. We all have a responsibility to take what we’ve received and hand it on to somebody else. Discipleship groups are a means to help parishes do this, to train ordinary parishioners to share their faith and multiply that over time.”

Klein sees the applicability of the approach in diverse parish contexts.

“The call to holiness has universal significance,” she said. “Maybe they look a little different in the lives of each one of us. But it’s the particular mission that Christ has called you to at your particular point in your life with these people at this place.”

Hussey emphasized that when parishes begin this approach to evangelization, it starts small through personal invitations, training and discipleship relationships or small groups.

“It’s not about teaching everybody everything,” he said. “It’s about investing deeply in a few, ultimately not for the sake of those few, but for the sake of many.

“There’s a paradox that when we spend more time with less people, we can actually end up reaching more people rather than by spending more time planning more things and events.”

Such discipleship relationships or small groups lead Catholics, Hussey said, to “ordinary evangelization,” sharing the Gospel in deliberate ways in everyday life.

‘The goal is that the groups multiply’

Training, though, is needed for this process to happen effectively.

“It’s a simple method,” Hussey said. “What can I do in my ordinary life to share my faith with somebody else? The reality is that we need to be equipped to do that. We need the skills and confidence to do that.”

It’s important in training, Hussey said, to form disciples to have an outward focus in living and sharing their faith. This helps discipleship relationships or groups avoid the temptation of becoming just a comfortable place for Catholics to stay.

“The ultimate goal is that the groups multiply, that we raise up new disciples from the initial discipleship groups that are formed,” Hussey said. “Over time, we’ll have more and more people reached by the Gospel in an intimate, personal way that small groups allow for.”

Hussey wants to help archdiocesan parishes equip its members to be missionary disciples across central and southern Indiana.

“We can help them get started with good training,” he said. “I’m happy to travel anywhere in the archdiocese to a parish to meet with an initial team or leadership to take them through training and help them train their initial small group leaders.”

(For more information about evangelization efforts in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, including on how to form discipleship groups and relationships in parishes, visit

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