Michigan bishop ‘humbled’ by success of weekly discipleship challenge

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing. | Diocese of Lansing.
Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing’s Disciples Together on the Way initiative Diocese of Lansing.
Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing’s Disciples Together on the Way initiative Diocese of Lansing.

A year-long initiative by a Michigan bishop to inspire greater Christian discipleship among clergy and laypeople has now attracted more than 11,000 weekly subscribers.

“I’m delighted, humbled and, yes, a little surprised by the degree of enthusiasm for the Disciples Together on the Way initiative,” said Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing.

“I just pray that the initiative is helping more and more people across the Diocese of Lansing — and even beyond — to live more authentic, deeper, and happier Christian lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Boyea’s Disciples Together on the Way initiative sends a weekly discipleship challenge to subscribers via a text message every Friday. Each challenge attempts to help subscribers acquire a different good habit of Christian discipleship in four key areas: prayer, catechesis, community, and apostolate.

At the end of May, for example, subscribers were encouraged to give thanks to God for the difficulties of life. Last week, Boyea challenged people to attend a weekday Mass. This week, he is urging followers to spend some time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

“Each weekly challenge is pitched at a level that, yes, may be a bit of stretch for some of us but is not beyond the capacity of any of us,” said Boyea.

“That is especially true when we remember we have God’s grace to help us plus the fraternal support of the thousands of others who are prayerfully accompanying us in this yearlong pilgrimage.”

Boyea’s weekly text message also links to a short video of him explaining the rationale for each challenge, plus some practical advice on how to conquer it. At present, 11,728 people are subscribed. The average open rate for each text is approximately 90%.

The template for a regular digital delivery of catechesis and inspiration was adopted by the Diocese of Lansing in 2020, when Boyea began leading people on a daily Bible study entitled the Bishop’s Year of the Bible. That initiative was also delivered via a daily text message or email.

Boyea, who has led the Lansing diocese since 2008, said: “As we read the Holy Bible, chapter by chapter, day by day, we more deeply encountered Jesus Christ himself in the Word of God and, as a result, many of us felt that He was calling us to continue our collective journey as disciples together on the way and, hence, the result was Disciples Together on the Way.”

It was Boyea who coined the name of the initiative drawing upon Christ’s identification of himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and the custom in the early Church of Christians referring to their new life as disciples of Jesus as “the Way” (Acts 9:2).

The 71-year-old bishop said that he was also keen to incorporate the Greek word “synod,” which means “journeying together”.

“This life is a journey, after all, it’s a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage from God and to God,” he explained.

“It’s not an easy journey, that’s true. However, if we cooperate with God’s grace we can make it and, even better, we can make it together.”

Those charged by Boyea with implementing the discipleship initiative, which began in January and concludes in December, are also delighted by the response in parishes.

Craig Pohl, the diocese’s director of new evangelization, said: “Whether people are journeying this year with someone else — a spouse, friends, whoever — or on their own, there are over 10,000 other people in the diocese doing it with you in spirit — there’s something really powerful in knowing that.”

“Plus, the fact that it’s our bishop who is directly teaching, preaching, and sanctifying his people has really inspired many across our parishes — to know that our shepherd is himself leading his flock to Christ, it’s really great.”

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To take up Bishop Earl Boyea’s weekly Disciples Together on the Way challenge, text ONTHEWAY to 84576.

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