HENRITZE: The Road to Emmaus - A model of accompaniment

September 24, 2019

What are you willing to change to become a more mature disciple of Jesus Christ?

If you are a mature disciple, rooted in prayer, Scripture and community, what are you doing to evangelize others and invite them into a deeper level of discipleship? One of the current buzzwords in Catholic ministry is “accompaniment.”

This is a term that Pope Francis has honed in on to call the Church’s attention to the need to journey with and mentor young people and those disaffiliated from the faith. One of the Greek words in Scripture translated as accompaniment (Tobit 5:10) means to be bound together in such a way that your separate journeys become as one.

Recently I was at a gathering of ministry leaders where almost every person lamented about the low number of volunteers in their ministry, while simultaneously inviting everyone else in the room to join their ministry. I was saddened and a little frustrated at the end of this meeting.

I wish I had been brash enough to stand up and say that our ministries do not need more volunteers. Instead, they need more mature disciples. I wish I would have been brave enough to ask each person there who they were currently accompanying and discipling to take their place. I wish I would have been that bold.

The unfortunate truth is that many Catholics, even those who serve in and lead ministries, have never been given a model for how to disciple someone. Perhaps they have never even been discipled themselves.

Pope Francis, in his latest Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, uses the story of the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24) to walk us through a three-step model of accompaniment.

Following the example of Christ in this passage, the Holy Father tells us that first, we must listen to the young and disaffiliated, helping them to recognize what they are experiencing in life. Second, we must lead them to interpret the events of their lives in light of Scripture.

It is at this point their hearts begin to burn within them, they broke bread with Jesus, and their conversion leads them to a desire for more. Finally, Pope Francis points out that Jesus did not force the disciples to turn around; rather, they choose to continue their journey by turning back to Jerusalem.

This model is simple, but if it is broadly utilized, it will bear great fruit. Is there someone in your life that you can walk with in this way? This year the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization will be using this model to propel forward a project team focused on accompaniment. We hope to create a three-level process. First, to develop a tool for our staff to accompany parish youth ministry leaders better. Second, a tool to help those leaders accompany their ministry teams.

Finally, a sustainable and replicable tool to help those team members accompany young people in the great adventure of discipleship. Pray for us, and know that we are praying for you. 

Brian Henritze is an associate director with the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.

Teen Talk

Teens in the Archdiocesan Youth Council share their own faith life experiences.

How would you want the Catholic Church to accompany you on your faith journey?

“Understanding and being a part of the Catholic Church is a journey in itself. A part of this journey is letting God and the Church be in your everyday life. Though this is a struggle for many youths today, including myself, I strive to have this sort of companionship. Having a loving connection with the Church is important to me. I want to be able to implement the Church’s teachings in my everyday life and let it guide me. I want to be able to have such a strong bond that, in the toughest times, my first instinct is to think, ‘Everything will be fine!” because I know the Church is forever by my side. I want to have a sense of security that I can let myself fall freely upon God. I want to be able to surrender myself to God’s everlasting love. To Agape.”

— Jennifer M., Holy Family (Missouri City)

How would you want a spiritual mentor, a trusted adult, to accompany you on your faith journey?

“I would want an adult who doesn’t judge me for the mistakes I make. I also want them to offer me advice for the future.”

— Adriana D., St. Michael the Archangel (Houston)