Comments on the Overall Process

I’ve always had a burning desire to serve God, but nothing I tried seemed to satisfy me for very long. More 
 
After a while I would feel restless again, and sensed that God had something bigger in His plan for me. But now I feel a tremendous peace! The Called and Gifted process has played an important part in helping me to discern my personal vocation. During my adult life I have tried many different roles in my quest to discover God’s purpose for me. I went through a rapidly changing sequence of paid employment including work with teenagers who had learning disabilities and behavioural issues; with people trying to free themselves from drug addiction; as an outreach worker to people who were rough sleeping; teaching English as a foreign language to children in Spain; and for the Sailors’ Children’s Society as support worker for children whose families were going through a difficult time. With all of these roles I really enjoyed them for a while, and would think ‘At last, this is it! This is what God wants me to do!’ But after a while I would feel restless again, and move on to something else. I somehow kept on feeling that God had a bigger and better purpose for me. While I was living in Spain, my Parish priest suggested I should train as a Deacon. I was too young at the time so had to wait another year. During that year I met with the Bishop who said my Spanish was not nearly good enough. I felt quite crushed by this and just gave up on the idea. But somehow the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, it kept coming back to my mind. So after I had returned to England, I went to see my parish priest about it. Fr Paul just smiled …. then explained that he only just that moment sent an email to Bishop Philip recommending me! A short while after that, I went to the very first Called and Gifted teaching in the Diocese led by Sherry Weddell. Fr Paul had suggested it would help me in my discernment. During the lunch break I sat at a table with people I had never met before, yet they asked me if I have ever considered becoming a deacon! The Small Discernment Group was the final piece of the jigsaw for me. As my experiment, I volunteered for all the roles in the parish that had some bearing on what I would do as a deacon – First Holy Communion, Confirmation, visit the elderly, PCC, the Evangelisation Strategy team, being an altar server - it was a very busy eight months! The feedback from the Small Discernment Group was unanimous, they all thought I should go forward in applying to become a deacon. Now that I have started my training, I feel a peace that I have never felt before. Now I know that I have begun what God has been calling me to all this time. Since starting my training, I have set up a group for men called CHAPS (Catholic Husbands And fathers’ PrayerS) and I run the Youth Group. Recently I helped the young people to make the Parish more aware of the plight of rough sleepers. They presented this as a living tableau during Mass and then afterwards, one of the young people explained what it was all about, and asked the parish to donate sleeping bags, backpacks and clothes. I’m still in paid employment too. My latest job is for the Fisherman’s Mission doing all kinds of things to help, like taking them shopping. So Called and Gifted has played an important part in helping me to be where I am now – at peace in my vocation as a deacon.
Initially I felt uncertain and at times uncomfortable and doubted that I would get much out of the process – I was very wrong! More 
 
Initially I felt uncertain and at times uncomfortable and doubted that I would get much out of the process – I was very wrong!
The one-to-one conversation gave me an immediate bright and clear understanding of something within myself which I had never really understood before – like a light suddenly being switched on. That meeting ignited a spark within me!
As a cradle Catholic my faith has always been there but my relationship with God was slightly fearful and a lot less bound in love than it should have been - I often missed out on much joy as a result. The Called and Gifted programme thawed my heart – that is the only way I can describe it!
The Called and Gifted course has enriched my life and, I hope, that of others. More 

 

The Called and Gifted course has enriched my life and, I hope, that of others. I am trying to become more aware of the Holy Spirit guiding my footsteps and to recognize God’s hand in my life. 
When I heard about the course I was interested as I now find myself in a place where I have the time and desire to find out more about my Christian faith. Although I was initially put off by the terminology used in the literature, I did go on to complete the inventory and booked a one to one appointment. This was a very happy encounter. The discussion helped to underpin my feelings about the gifts I was blessed with for helping others. 
I had already begun to do some work on bereavement support. The C&G process  helped me to take it further. I approached my Parish priest to suggest some changes and these were well received by the congregation on the whole. 
I joined a  small group and it was just a delight. It was  an enormously enriching experience to be able to meet, pray, talk and laugh in a very safe and non-judgmental environment. 
My inability to be as prayerful as I feel I ought to be has always been a great source of sadness to me. The Called and Gifted process has identified to me that, clearly, Intercessory Prayer is not my gift and I am loved just the way I am. Now I can recognize the wonderful gift of Intercessory Prayer in others without feeling guilty. 
Thank you so much for running the course and helping me recognise and appreciate my own gifts more clearly.
Even after taking part in the Called and Gifted process I find it hard to see my charisms clearly. More

 

  

Even after taking part in the Called and Gifted process I find it hard to see my charisms clearly. As it says in the C&G literature, ‘Discernment can be more complicated for those with years of Christian ministry experience .. ..discernment may be a longer and more painful process in such cases because we need to disentangle our expectations and our experience from our true effectiveness ...it can be difficult to tease apart our skills, our natural abilities and our charisms…’. we may have done it  all but how truly effective have we been? 
I have found that, ‘discerning our charisms is a process that takes time….  the Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory is only a beginning step in a long process! .. Getting a high score doesn’t necessarily mean you have actually been given that charism... It is simply indicating an area for further discernment. 
The one to one discussion was very valuable. I am immensely grateful to my interviewer for listening attentively and for the great encouragement she gave me. It seemed I probably had Charisms of Leadership and Pastoring. I did not investigate these in the small group discernment process as there was already a lot of evidence. (I have detailed this evidence in two other stories). I was curious as to whether I had a charism for Encouragement and/or Evangelisation. We decided I should experiment in the group process. They weren’t high scores but I felt these were bubbling under the radar I found the small group process difficult. I foolishly tried to track the two charisms at the same time, I didn’t have enough experiences during the time the group was meeting, and there were too many variables. 
I had little response to whether I was encouraging. I am still unsure as to whether I have this charism. I have not received a huge amount of positive feedback and I am not uniformly positive (I need a lot of encouragement!) As I have a strong pastoring charism I am not sure that I form the personal relationships needed to allow me to encourage: sometimes it is incompatible when numbers are large. However I feel a very strong urge to give encouragement to some people and I have a tremendous positive feeling about it. I feel this in particular when I am assisting in English classes at the prison and I want to help the prisoners feel positively about themselves. I also want to send positive messages to people I know (e.g. supporting a friend with cancer, or a message of encouragement to those in challenging situations). I have not closed the door on this but it was a ‘no show’ in discernment. 
I also had little opportunity for evangelisation during the small group process. However, I feel passionately about evangelisation. In 2013, I felt compelled by the Bishop’s invitation “what can you do?” in his talk on the New Evangelisation.  I loved presenting the ‘kerygma’ to the Baptism candidates and I could see when this was hitting home. Some said they had never heard that about the Catholic faith before. I was glad to join the Sion mission visiting team on their home visits in our parish. I still feel passionate about the importance of giving people a chance to find their faith. I love being on the streets at the “Night of Lights” (Night Fever) in Winchester and inviting people into the church.
One of my key interests is evangelising parents at our local school and I am trying to discern if Mothers Prayers group would be good here. 
However, I find I am struggling to share my personal faith with others; I lack confidence that I have a faith and feel very inadequate when I see others full of faith; I have good days and bad days! 
My conclusion at the close of the small group was that there was no evidence I had these two charisms. What I learnt from the small group was the discernment process itself, and a greater awareness of the way God uses us and empowers us with the Holy Spirit.  
I have used the awareness I developed in this whole discernment process to observe and discern how the charisms may be emerging in me and as an aid to discernment in general. I am happy to be led by the Holy Spirit even if the charisms involved are not yet clearly labelled. I think it is important to be continually discerning and flexible to the Will of God. I need to stay alert to where I am being led. Even if I do nothing, I can know God in the stillness, waiting and listening for what is next.
The Called & Gifted process has introduced something new and exciting into my life as a Christian, and has inspired me to persevere in discerning my spiritual gifts. More
The Called & Gifted process has introduced something new and exciting into my life as a Christian, and has inspired me to persevere in discerning my spiritual gifts.
I attended the C&G Teaching Weekend for no other reason than sheer inquisitiveness. The content and delivery of the course was of a high standard, stimulating and very enjoyable. In my case, the results of the Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory pointed in the direction of ‘writing’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘encouragement’ as possible spiritual gifts.
Following an extremely helpful one-to-one conversation, I decided to explore ways in which I could exercise two of the inventory results, ‘writing’ and ‘encouragement’. I prayed a great deal, simply asking Jesus to lead me in following through the next steps of the C&G process.
As a result, I decided to undertake three specific tasks:

1. I would use ‘writing’ as a means of offering support and encouragement to persecuted Christians.
2. I would undertake a survey of all those within my parish who subscribed to Bible Alive with the aim of encouraging those who have never previously engaged in regular daily reading of the Scriptures.

3. I would write my sincere thanks to the Vicar of a C of E Church which had introduced my granddaughter to Christianity.
I searched the internet for Christian organisations that encourage supporters to write to those who suffer oppression and persecution because of their Christian faith. Having been unable to identify any Catholic organisation engaged in this particular activity, I discovered two well established ‘non-Catholic’ charities based in the UK – ‘Open Doors’ and ‘Christian Solidarity Worldwide’ (CSW). And so began several weeks during which I wrote letters to individuals identified by the two charities, one of whom was a Catholic priest, to show that fellow Christians around the world were thinking of and praying for them. In writing these letters I drew heavily on Scripture to offer hope and encouragement. It was at this point that I really began to feel that this form of Christian activism was very much something I needed to engage in. Even if only a small number of my letters filter through to their intended recipients, and convey Christian solidarity with them, then this exercise will have proved truly worthwhile.
My second task is nearing completion and I am currently involved in writing a report based on the results of the survey. I am particularly elated with the amazing comments that the survey respondents have provided. I hope and pray that these will encourage others to set aside a few minutes of ‘sacred space’ each day in order to read the readings of the day alongside a reflection/commentary such as Bible Alive. If my survey report has an impact on only one individual who decides to take up daily Scripture reading, then I will feel that this whole exercise was something I was clearly meant to do.
My letter of thanks to the C of E Vicar included praise for his church’s outstanding programme on Sunday mornings for children and young people. This had had such a significant impact on my granddaughter. On receipt of this letter the Vicar expressed his gratitude to me for having written to him.
I have experienced a real sense of passion when engaged in these activities at the service of others, even in the absence of tangible feedback from those whom I am serving. However, I continue to experience lingering doubts as to whether the activities I have engaged in constitute charisms, and this has occupied a great deal of my thinking and prayer.
Following the one-to-one interview I joined a small discernment group of five participants tasked with helping and supporting each other, through a process of six meetings, to discern possible spiritual gifts/charisms. During the six meetings I felt relaxed and at ease, but more importantly, inspired and humbled by the contributions of my fellow participants. This is without doubt, for me personally, one of the most positive experiences emerging from the C&G process - even though I am someone who normally does everything possible to avoid social events, particularly ‘small groups’.
As a group, we have decided to continue beyond the recommended six meetings to explore further the spiritual gifts/charisms that we may be able to exercise as part of our Christian discipleship. Therefore, in addition to the tasks that I have already embarked upon, I intend during 2017 to begin writing short reflections/commentaries on Scripture with the intention of enabling and encouraging others to recognise that the Scriptures are as applicable to our lives today as they were 2,000 years ago.
I am truly grateful to the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth and the C&G team for having awakened in me the desire and determination to put into practice something that I may eventually come to recognise as a charism.

 

A report from Avon and Stour. More

As a result of the Called & Gifted Process, 25 of the 42 people who participated in one of our 10 small groups completed questionnaires identifying charisms that they either believe are more or less confirmed by the discernment process, or that they were still actively exploring, or that they were keen to explore. We also had information on which charisms all of them had been exploring as a result of their One-to-One Conversations.

 

Several indicated that they were already finding ways of actively using these charisms in their everyday lives, either within the parish communities or within their families, or their circles of friends, acquaintances or work colleagues (e.g. Service, Encouragement, Intercessory Prayer, Mercy, Evangelism)

 

We have also pro-actively used the information to help and encourage parishioners to find ways of using and experimenting with these charisms and potential charisms within the Pastoral Area. Some examples:  

 

  • When choosing facilitators for the Called & Gifted Small Groups themselves, we approached the six people who had identified Pastoring. All six agreed to take on the role.
  • When forming a worship band for the new Pastoral Area “Welcome to Worship” events, three new people were recruited directly as a result of their potential Music charisms.  
  • Two people in two different parishes started using their Music to support Children’s Liturgy.  
  • When choosing a Planning Team for project managing our new Alpha Course initiative, we approached people who had identified (potential) charisms of Administration, Leadership and Hospitality and all agreed and have been vital members of that team.  
  • The Alpha Small Groups need the right people to facilitate them and people who are excellent at welcoming and hospitality, so we approached people with identified (potential) charisms of Pastoring, Hospitality and Encouragement and most have taken on that role, which is still ongoing.  
  • People who identified Hospitality have been invited to help with Welcoming and Hospitality at Pastoral Area events, and are now willingly doing so.  
  • One person identified (to their surprise!) a charism of Writing and has discovered a wonderful gift for writing poetry which moves people spiritually. They have now had some of their poems published in Pastoral Area and Diocesan publications.  
  • We will shortly be running a series of small groups in people’s homes across the Pastoral Area, and so will be approaching people with Hospitality to act as hosts in their homes and others with Pastoring and Encouragement to facilitate the groups.

The Avon Stour Pastoral Area has also borne fruit within the Diocese outside of our Pastoral Area:  

 

  • One participant, as a result of their One-to-One Conversation and Small Group Discernment, has taken on the organisation of a Diocesan group of Prayer Intercessors, available to anyone for prayer support. We have been using that group of intercessors to provide a prayer foundation for our Alpha Course.  
  • One participant found that the Called & Gifted Process helped him to clarify his vocation to the priesthood, and he is now undergoing his formation for this.  One participant is now combining their charisms of Writing and Teaching by writing a regular on-line reflection on the Sunday readings.

I am quite certain that there are many other fruits of this process that are flourishing elsewhere, but this gives an indication of some of those known to us.

 

 
 

Contact

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