Reflections on Discipleship: Disciple and Learner

Last summer the parish hosted in-home meetings during which Father Dennis spoke of discipleship.   Since then Father’s thoughts have evolved into a vision for the parish:  [That] every parishioner will make an intentional commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ rooted in a personal relationship with Him and committed to sharing his/her story. This vision has become the basis for many of Father’s homilies.  Therefore, while Father Dennis is enjoying his vacation, it may be of value to revisit his discipleship comments of last year:

“There is a difference between a disciple and a follower.  A follower is one who follows the opinions or teachings of the one whom he/she serves.  On the other hand, a disciple is one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines or teachings of another.   At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives the following instruction, ‘…Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.  Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.’   A disciple is one who takes on the responsibility of carrying out the mission of the leader—Jesus Christ.

The noun disciple used in the gospels comes from the Greek word, mathetes (pronounced math-a-TAYS) meaning learner or pupil.  As a verb, the word is translated as learn by inquiry.  In Jesus’ day students or followers sought out the rabbi or teacher.  Jesus, however, is the one who seeks out the disciple unlike the rabbis of his time.  Therefore, discipleship is by invitation only.  You and I by virtue of our Baptism have been invited by Jesus to be his disciple.  We are commanded to make more disciple by spreading the teachings of Jesus…’Go make disciples of all the nations.’

The question for us is: What does being a disciple mean me?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers one answer: ‘The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in Him.’  Discipleship for us is to proclaim Jesus in order to lead others to faith in Him.  Like the disciples of the early Church we are to invite people to enter into the joy of our communion with Christ.  It is the Spirit who has been given to us that teaches and guides us in this work.

I like the meaning of discipleship as I read it in Deuteronomy, ‘It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.’  The Constitution of the Church, Chapter 4 #38 simply states, ‘Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body.  That discipleship at its best—integrated and organic to who we are and all that we do.”


Father Dennis Dirkx


Father Peter Patrick Kimani Arrives at St. Robert


Father Peter Patrick Kimani recently celebrated his first Mass as St. Robert of Newminster Associate Pastor.  Ordained on May 17 (, Saint Francis Seminary Class of 2014, Father Peter Patrick comes to us from Nairobi, Kenya, where he grew up, the middle child of Samuel Kimani and Mary Wambui’s five children.  He was a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church (, in the Dandora neighborhood of Nairobi.  An active member of that parish, he first experienced God’s call there, serving as a catechetical instructor.

While engaged as a catechist, he encountered a central figure in his life and calling, a pastor who encouraged him to do more than catechesis.  He studied at the Queen of Apostles Philosophy Center Jinja, Uganda from 2001 to 2004, and returned home after completing a philosophy and social science major.  He became involved in community work.  In 2010 he realized that the call to do more than catechesis had come not from his pastor, but from God. In our interview, Father Peter Patrick recalled how the prophet Samuel needed Eli’s prompting to recognize the origin of his call (1 Samuel 3:1-10).  That is what his pastor had been trying to point out all along.

The rest, as they say, is history, which has been very well captured in an article in the Catholic Herald on May 15 (  However, to round out the picture of Father Peter Patrick for St. Robert, I spent some time with him recently to learn more about his initial impressions of St. Robert and his objectives.

Despite being newly ordained, there will be little that will faze Father Peter Patrick.  Following ordination, Father took time to return to Nairobi and his family.  When he arrived at Holy Cross, the pastor there saw an opportunity to take a break of his own, asking Father Peter Patrick to fill in.  That might not seem too daunting a task; however, Holy Cross Parish is the only Catholic parish in Dandora, which has a population of 150-200,000, 10-15% of whom are Catholic.  Needless to say, he was busy.  For the example on his last day in Nairobi, his schedule included:

7:00 a.m.:  Bless children going on trip

10:00 a.m.: Celebrate Mass for the school/ Visit a sick parishioner at home

3:00 p.m.:  Celebrate a two-hour Mass (There were a lot of blessings!)

6:00 p.m.: Celebrate a third Mass

7:00 p.m.: Leave for Kenya for Milwaukee

Without understating the challenges in any parish, it seems reasonable to say that after his Nairobi experience, our parish of about 1,000 might seem more like a vacation!

Service is a high priority for Father Peter Patrick.  He hopes to be seen as a patient and compassionate pastor; one who, from his own background, is keenly aware of the differences in circumstances, needs, and viewpoints among his parishioners.  He wants parishioners to know that anyone who has a question can approach him and receive an answer to their question, whether it is about something he has said, or about any matter of faith.  A special objective of Father’s is to “pass the baton” to another generation of priests, by emulating his own pastor, and mentoring those who are considering how to respond to their own call.

Beyond that, Father hopes to build on his experiences at Holy Cross to maintain a vibrant parish at St. Robert.  At Holy Cross, the work of the parish, such as their program for street children (, is performed with the help of very active small community-based groups.  Each group makes a contribution to the formation of a complete church community, based on the members’ own talents and abilities.  To get started, Father plans to contact all St. Robert’s parish ministries, faith groups, and volunteer organizations, learn their needs, accomplishments and potential, and encourage the formation of new communities within the Parish.  He sees prayer as central to that goal, and used families as the model, quoting the phrase “The family that prays together, stays together.”

Father Peter Patrick observed that the archdiocesan pastoral assignment interview process gave him confidence that he will fit well within the St. Robert community.  Prior to ordination, he visited a number of parishes in the Archdiocese to prepare for stating his assignment wishes.  In talking with Father Dennis, he was very impressed by our Pastor’s vision for a renewed parish, built around intentional discipleship.  It seemed very close to his experiences, and his vision for building a vibrant church.  So, when he was asked for his assignment preferences, he chose St. Robert!   As we welcome Father Peter Patrick, we can expect a productive and harmonious association between our new Associate and our St. Robert of Newminster Parish!

By Jim McDonald, Parish Stewardship Committee