The year before I came to Bellingham the Newman Center, under the leadership of Father (now) Marion, started a new program where recent college graduates can spend some time working as a volunteer in ministry and learning about discipleship. The program, titled “Disciples in Service,” started with one volunteer, grew to two the following year and four last year. The program is specially designed to take the gifts and talents, but also the areas of growth, found in an individual and crafting a specialized discipleship experience for them. This differs from most internship programs in that it is not corporate need, but rather the intern themselves that drives the ministerial experience. In order to make such a program possible we have had to increase the number of placements to correspond to ministerial need in the area. In less technical language this means that if someone wants to get into youth ministry we, as the directors of the program, need to find a parish that has a need for help in the area of youth ministry.
We as a parish have seen this work in practice over the last two years. The first year I was here we had Tuyen Huynh in the area of youth ministry, because this was the area he wanted to grow in and where his gifts lay. This past year we have been blessed with the presence of Kevin Ernest in the areas of liturgy and social justice. Both were loved member of the Sacred Heart community, though I feel often their role in the Disciples in Service program was not explained very well. As the program continues to expand we, at Sacred Heart, are blessed with the opportunity to help form leaders for the future. It is also a nice tie in, though unintentional, to the relationship we already share as a parish with the Newman Center. I often hear people say that they wish they knew more about what happens on the Newman side of Father’s life and now we have the opportunity to see the fruit of the ministry going on at Western.
The Disciple in Service program is designed to run on an academic year schedule and July brings our current disciple’s, Kevin Ernest, year to a close. We thank him for all his great work over the last year and wish him great endeavors in the future. We will have special doughnuts following the 11:00 a.m. Mass on July 27th as a way of thanking him for all his hard work. As we say goodbye to Kevin we say hello to some more disciples for the coming year. Next year we will have two disciples, though I have to say not intentionally. It was sort of like a perfect storm of presenting parish needs along with candidates qualified to fill those needs. Most likely the pleasure of having two disciples at once will not be something we can look forward to in the future. As we are still discussing the areas these disciples will be involved in I don’t want to introduce them quite yet but we will all have an opportunity to get to meet them on the weekend of the August 9-10, after their first full week as Disciples. If you would like to know more about the Disciples in Service program feel free to contact Rachael Becker or myself.
Fr. Joseph Altenhofen