Four parishes in the Diocese of Orlando are forming committed disciples by participating in a bilingual program called With All Your Heart/Con Todo Nuestro Corazon, a parish-based program that invites individuals to grow spiritually, help build community, and give faithfully. Assisted by the Catholic Foundation of Central Florida, St. John the Evangelist in Viera, St. Vincent de Paul in Wildwood, St. Francis of Assisi in Apopka, and Mission Santo Toribio Romo in Mascotte, started the two year program this past Advent.
With All Your Heart, developed in 2013 by Greater Mission, is being implemented in about 20 parishes nationwide, and strives to unify bilingual parishes. “It helps parishes become closer as a community. Churches belong to all of us. To be dynamic, people have to put all their hearts into it,” said pastor Fr. Bradley Beaupre, c.s.c. of St. John the Evangelist.
The program, which is built on one of four “hearts” per season; heart to pray, heart to serve, heart to share, and heart to witness, offers a yearlong cycle of opportunities for church members to become more active in developing their faith life and parish community.
“Disciples are engaged in relationship with Jesus Christ, and disciples are engaged in their parishes,” explained Christine Stillings, adult faith formation coordinator at St. Francis Catholic Church in Apopka. “Working with With All Your Heart will enable us to form patterns of disciple-making in our parish culture, and then as disciples, see how we may enter more fully into Christ’s Great Commission.”
Tailoring the program to the needs and characteristics of their community, parishes have already begun to see some unique outcomes.
“Parishes had an average of 17 different activities during the Heart to Pray season,” said Doris Quinones, annual giving manager at the Catholic Foundation, who provides technical assistance to the parishes in the program. “They saw an increase in participation in activities like rosaries before and after Mass, new prayer groups, lectio divina groups, and the use of prayer mobile apps and texts.”
Quinones reported that thousands of people across the four parishes signed pledge cards, promising to deepen their relationship with God and came up with almost 7000 ways to do so.
“It is not a rubber stamp, cookie cutter program,” said Stillings. “In a diverse community like ours, the activities are varied, and can bring us together as one community, like our bilingual Liturgy of the Hours during Advent and Lent.”
St. Francis of Assisi was successful in bringing the English and Spanish-speaking communities together for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe by teaching about the patroness of the Americas in English, and inviting everyone to celebrate her feast day.
At Mission Santo Toribio Romo, during the Heart to Serve segment, a parishioner donated a sewing machine to start sewing and craft classes for the wives of migrant workers. Others have donated the fabric so that the women can learn to sew clothes for their children. In addition, they are helping the women gain confidence and give them something meaningful to do.
As part of With All Your Heart, St. Vincent de Paul parishioners were asked to celebrate an “Elder Kindness Day” to bring attention to the needs of the elderly in the community, many of whom may be isolated or alone. Parishioners participated by calling an elderly friend or neighbor, sending a note to an elderly relative, visiting a nursing home, or offering help to the elderly in their community.
At St. John the Evangelist, the Heart to Serve included a children’s walk-a-thon to raise money for the Children’s Hunger Project.
“It’s an ideal way to cap off our Heart to Serve. It’s mercy in action, children helping children,” says Fr. Beaupre, c.s.c. The parish partnered with the local Brevard Co. charity to provide backpacks filled with kid-friendly food, so that children can have basic nutrition over the weekend.
Coming up next, parishes will begin the third phase of the program, Heart to Share, which will focus on stewardship of time, talent and treasure. Knowing the positive effects of program, Quinones hopes that more parishes will want to begin.
“We want to see more parishes take part in it. The program gives them a way of organizing, especially during this Year of Mercy. We can help them through the process, but the parish decides what would be most beneficial to them.”
Father Beaupre, c.s.c. says he feels positive about the results so far, and is receiving feedback that people are extending themselves more than ever before.
“Our goal is to encourage all individuals to do as much as they can to serve,” says Father Beaupre, c.s.c. “We have asked people to look around, see where there is a need, and then serve others’ needs.”