The Diocese of Superior’s associate director of Catholic Formation, Chris Hurtubise, speaks to youth at the 2017 Extreme Faith Camp in Rhinelander. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

Note: This is the first of a two-part interview with Chris Hurtubise, associate director of Catholic Formation for the Diocese of Superior. The second half of the interview will run in the following issue.

Mission at the heart of the Christian faith was the theme Pope Francis chose for his 2017 World Mission Day message. In light of the ongoing Missionary Discipleship theme — both for the September 2017 Catechetical Sunday and Religious Education Week Nov. 5-11 – the Superior Catholic Herald interviewed Chris Hurtubise for comments on the Pope’s message and its application within the faith formation efforts of the diocese. This article is in a question-and-answer format.

On Oct. 3, Chris Hurtubise was the presenter for the Office of Ecclesial Ministry and Diocesan Consultation’s Professional Development Day of Generational Discipleship: They Need What?
He coordinated the Oct. 11 youth rally in New Richmond and was a presenter at the mid-October clergy workshop.

Catholic Herald: Pope Francis introduces his message for World Mission Sunday by asking three questions. In response to the first question — What is the basis of our mission? — Pope Francis responds, “The Church’s mission, directed to all men and women of good will, is based on the transformative power of the Gospel.” From your experience working in the Diocese of Superior, what are the ‘best practices’ for transmitting that power of the Gospel?

Hurtubise: In a word, the mission of the Church is discipleship. In my experience, the best practices for transmitting the power of the Gospel always comes down to that. What does discipleship mean? If we look at Jesus’ model, discipleship consists of mentoring relationships and individually accompanying young and new believers; young by age and/or new to religious experiences. But discipleship carries over into accompanying all members of the Church through all of the stages of life. Each of us is called to be discipled and to contribute to the mission of discipling others.

Catholic Herald: How does your concept of generational discipleship complement the Pope’s indication of all men and women of good will as the subjects of the Church’s mission? What exactly do you mean by generational discipleship?

Hurtubise: When we talk about generational discipleship, all we really mean is that every generation needs to be discipled. Again, the mission of the Church – given to us by Jesus in the great commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel – is to create disciples. This means that all of us are called to be discipled and to disciple others. What that looks like in each of our lives depends on God’s unique calling for us and our vocation. Our own relationship with the Lord and with the Body of Christ is going to look different depending on the stage of life we find ourselves in (as teens, single young adults, young parents, middle-aged or older). And it’s going to look different depending on what generation we belong to (millennials, generation X, baby boomers, etc.). Every phase of life needs to be infused with and guided by the intentional discipleship found in living out a conscientious relationship with Christ and His Body the Church.

Catholic Herald: Pope Francis presents Jesus Christ himself as the answer to the second question of what is the heart of our mission. He quotes Pope Benedict XVI: “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Why is work with youth such a primary focus of the Church’s work? What are the common obstacles to encountering Christ that affect people of all ages?

Hurtubise: It is true that young people have the most frequent opportunities for encountering Christ. Over the last few decades, youth ministry has gotten so much better at realizing the necessity for young people to encounter Christ in a powerful and transformative way. So, now there are great opportunities like Steubenville conferences, Extreme Faith Camp, National Catholic Youth Conference, etc. You name it, and there are powerful times of Eucharistic adoration, dynamic music and engaging speakers. These are all great ways that young people can encounter Christ and have that initial conversion so necessary for all of our spiritual lives. But, as a Church, I think we’re starting to realize that young people aren’t the only ones who need powerful opportunities of encountering Christ. We need to look at how we can provide those sorts of opportunities for young adults, young families, and adults of all ages, as well.