Sherry Weddell’s first book, Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus (OSV, 2012), immediately gained popularity among diocesan and parish leaders after its release in 2012. It said what many Catholics recognized but could not articulate: that the previous methods used to form Catholic disciples were no longer working and that a new perspective and approach were in order. It stressed the life-changing impact that would come when individuals and parishes made a conscious decision to follow Christ. Now, five years later, Our Sunday Visitor has published a follow-up to the first book: Fruitful Discipleship: Living the Mission of Jesus in the Church and the World (OSV, 2017).
The author of both books, Sherry A. Weddell, is co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, whose mission is to equip parishes for the evangelization and formation of lay Catholics. The Institute offers the Called & Gifted program (an aid to the discernment of charisms) and other workshops designed to promote evangelization and discipleship.
Fruitful Discipleship looks at discipleship from a new angle. Rather than trying to answer the why and how of forming disciples, it asks: “What are the results or ‘fruit’ of discipleship?” If fruitfulness is a prime indicator of the spiritual health of disciples and parishes, then we need to understand how to promote it. This leads to the core of the book: the charisms given us by the Holy Spirit.
In as succinct and informative of a description on charisms as you’ll ever find, the author describes each charism, gives real life examples, and then explains its application and use in evangelization. She also includes a discussion on how one discerns his or her charisms.
The book is well-written and easy to read. The author speaks with the authority of experience and concisely puts her finger on the key issues. Chapters Four through Nine are an excellent overview of charisms. But Chapters Three (“The Undaunted Fruit Farmer”) and Ten (“Facing Outward”) are loaded with pearls to guide disciples and parishes in furthering the mission of the Church.
I have a few minor criticisms. The discussion in Chapter Three about what she and her team has learned about discipleship and evangelization goes far too quickly and leaves as many questions as it answers. In the end, she seems to advocate a “shotgun” approach, where leaders scatter their efforts in as many directions as possible, trying to move the parish forward by mass effect. The how-to of evangelization within the parish remains fuzzy. The lack of answers is no fault of the author, however, but rather reflects the current state-of-the-art. Her main focus—fruitfulness expressed through the charisms—is spot on.
I highly recommend this book for parish leaders and for any intentional disciple who is looking to further the mission of the Church. This book provides a treasure of information about the charisms of the Holy Spirit.