The Philadelphia Archdiocese has launched a new initiative to “allow the power of Christ to transform the local church.”

Announced Feb. 15, the archdiocesan Commission for Missionary Disciples will work to “tap into the wellspring of grace in the heart of the church,” inviting all to develop a deeply personal relationship with Christ while challenging others to do the same, according to its website.

The commission’s current 16 members, drawn from across the five-county archdiocesan area, represent a diverse array of pastoral experience and cultural backgrounds.


Chaired by Meghan Cokeley, director of the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization, the list includes the following:

-Araminta Brown, pastoral associate for small groups, outreach and discipleship at St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in Philadelphia

-Paola Cubides Herrera, associate director of the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization

-Permanent diaconate candidate Jaime Gandara and his wife Jeanne, parish leaders at St. Bridget in Philadelphia

-Father Michael Hennelly, archdiocesan Vicar for Clergy

-Catholic educator John Kinuthia, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Aston and founder of the Awaken the Saint Within ministry

-Williamina Lebaga, young adult ministry leader at Our Lady of Hope in Philadelphia

-Sister of St. Joseph Linda Lukiewski, evangelization and Hispanic minister at the Mission of St. Joan of Arc (Holy Innocents Parish) in Philadelphia

-Msgr. Michael McCulken, pastor of St. Eleanor Parish in Collegeville

-Gina Mesko, Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) discipleship coordinator of the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization

-Wanda Nouel, coordinator of the archdiocesan Office for Catechetical Formation

-Sister of Life Maeve Nativitas, local superior of the order at its St. Malachy Convent

-David Sao, chief creative officer and co-founder of the Culture Project International

-Jane Selner, parish services coordinator at St. Rose of Lima in North Wales

-Kurt Zampier, director of mission engagement at St. Norbert in Paoli

Back in the summer of 2020, Archbishop Nelson Pérez called for the commission to be convened under the direction of the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization.

(View the introductory video for the Commission for Missionary Disciples.)

Since then, the group’s progress has unfolded in three phases, moving from conceptualization to outreach. Throughout 2020, a core team of 11 local evangelization leaders met to discuss the project’s vision, structure and scope. During the following year, the team prayerfully examined the work of ministries such as FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), Evangelical Catholic and Amazing Parish, along with best practices by the Archdioceses of Boston, Detroit, St. Louis and Vancouver, and the Dioceses of Green Bay and Lansing.

Based on such undertakings, the commission is set to officially launch its activities with a May 4 workshop on “Making Missionary Disciples” led by theologian and author Dr. Edward Sri. The all-day session will take place at Mother of Divine Providence Parish Center in King of Prussia, with details and registration information available on the commission’s website.


Over the coming year, commission members aim to develop two pilot projects that will be tested with focus groups throughout the archdiocese: kerygmatic retreats (from the Greek for “proclamation,” as in the news of Christ’s salvation); and schools of missionary discipleship, in which participants will learn more about the church’s various methods of prayer while cultivating skills in listening and sharing the Gospel.

Pope Francis has stressed that “all the members of the People of God” are missionary disciples, or “agents of evangelization,” by virtue of their baptism (“Evangelii Gaudium,” 120).

Leaving the task solely to “professionals” is “insufficient,” the pope said, noting that although missionary disciples should seek “better training, a deeper love and a clearer witness to the Gospel,”  any person “who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” 120, 121).