Jesus commanded his disciples to “make disciples of all nations”. Though the Church began this mission on Pentecost two thousand years ago, it is far from complete. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio Pope John Paul II wrote, “As the second millennium after Christ’s coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service. It is the Spirit who impels us to proclaim the great works of God: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)
Ever since his conversion several years ago, Aneel Aranha, like Paul, has felt the necessity of preaching the Gospel. This burden laid upon his heart has taken him to several countries around the world where he has preached to hundreds of thousands of people under the banner of Holy Spirit Interactive (HSI), the ministry he started soon after his conversion. (It has since been recognized by Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, as an Association of Faith and Outreach, and has received the endorsement of several other Bishops around the world.)
During the course of his travels he came across many men and women who expressed a similar desire to share what they know about God and his tremendous love for them. He realized, however, that despite their great spirit of enthusiasm and zeal, many of them lacked the formation required to ably teach the Gospel, and even if they did have adequate knowledge, they lacked the opportunity to do so. This led him to develop the concept of a six month long training program that would educate people about the Catholic faith with three main purposes in mind: to learn it, to live it and to share it. With a small team of people, he formulated a basic syllabus focusing largely on spiritual growth, prepared a few notes that would take them through a couple of months, and in the summer of 2006 launched the program with forty participants.
Its success came as a surprise even to him. Within a few weeks those participating were testifying about the tremendous growth they were attaining spiritually and the confidence they had already begun to develop to take the Gospel to others. By the end of the six months they were clamoring for more and consequently the “syllabus” was expanded to cover another six months, including new subjects like apologetics and contemplative meditation.
By the end of the year, with even greater enthusiasm than when they had begun, the team started putting together material for a second year, while simultaneously launching another School nearly 2,000 kilometers away in Mumbai, curious to see if the program could be transported across cultures and countries. The success of this School gave the team the impetus to start more of what are now called HSI Schools of Discipleship in other cities around the world. As of this writing, there are 21 Schools of Discipleship worldwide with another 48 to start within the next 12 months!
The increasing popularity of these Schools, largely influenced by the tremendous need that exists in the Catholic Church for good and strong faith formation, has prompted the team to make the School portable so that any parish or community interested in doing this program can do so with relative ease using their own resource persons to animate it. To this effect the syllabus has been broken up into eight bite-sized modules of five sessions each which allows the parish priest or community leader tremendous flexibility in implementing the program.
On this site is all the information you need to start a School of Discipleship in your parish or community should you be inclined to do so. Also provided is a sampler of the course with the first session of the second module— Spiritual Growth—presented in its entirety.