“[W]e need a church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than just listening to them; a church that accompanies them on their journey…”
-Pope Francis, July 28, 2013

Missionaries to the Family is an innovative response to Pope Francis’ call for accompaniment of families. This initiative equips missionaries with the foundational training they need to truly walk with other families in faith. While anyone may discern the call to become a missionary to the family, we recognize the important role couples have to play in missionary discipleship, especially in accompanying families.

“Consequently, pastoral accompaniment needs to go beyond the actual celebration of the sacrament (Familiaris Consortio, Part III). In this regard, experienced couples have an important role to play. The parish is a place where such experienced couples can help younger couples, with the eventual cooperation of associations, ecclesial movements and new communities.”
-Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 223

The Missionaries to the Family initiative consists of three stages: discernment, formation and activation. The discernment stage explores a person’s calling, desire and fit for becoming a Missionary to the Family. The formation stage provides professional training to the missionaries to help them fulfill their calling. The activation stage follows formation and empowers the missionary in their mission work within or around the parish.

Most often, couples or individuals receive an invitation to serve as a missionary to the family. Whether from a priest, parish staff member, family member or friend, this invitation begins the discernment process. Those discerning will receive information about the initiative, take time to discuss their fit for the role and enter into prayer for God’s guidance in making the decision. Should they decide to become a missionary, a conversation with their pastor and Paradisus Dei will take place, and a formal application will be completed. Missionaries will be informed of their acceptance into the next stage, Formation.

This stage consists of three types of formation over one year’s time:

  • Theological
  • Spiritual
  • Practical

Theological formation is provided by the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame and consists of four online courses. Spiritual and Practical formation is provided by Paradisus Dei through a combination of two, in-person retreats at the University of Notre Dame and online coursework. The first retreat takes place at Notre Dame on August 16-18, 2019. Missionaries should expect to spend approximately two hours per week on the online courses. Here is the tentative schedule:


Quarter Formation Given by Start End
1 Retreat Paradisus Dei Aug 16 Aug 18
Theology ICL, Notre Dame Aug 25 Oct 13
Spiritual/practical Paradisus Dei Oct 20 Nov 10
2 Theology ICL, Notre Dame Nov 17 Jan 5
Spiritual/practical Paradisus Dei Jan 12 Feb 9
3 Retreat Paradisus Dei To be determined
Theology ICL, Notre Dame Feb 23 Apr 12
Spiritual/practical Paradisus Dei Apr 19 May 10
4 Theology ICL, Notre Dame May 17 Jul 5
Spiritual/pratical Paradisus Dei Jul 12 Aug 9
Commissioning To be determined

As missionaries near the completion of their year of formation, Paradisus Dei will help facilitate a conversation with their parish about their special focus area, either serving families within the existing parish structure or serving families on the periphery of the parish. Once determined, the missionary finalizes their year 1 ministry plans with the parish. Missionaries will be commissioned to begin their service to families in the parish at the end of Formation. The location and date of that Commissioning is yet to be determined.

The investment per missionary couple is $700. This fee includes online formation and onsite retreat and commissioning expenses. It does not include travel to and from the retreats and commissioning.

It is recommended that the diocese and/or parish identify a shared investment model with the missionaries. For example, one partner diocese chose to have the diocese/parish pay the $700 per couple and ask the couple to pay their travel costs to and from the retreats.

To learn more about the Missionaries to the Family initiative, please contact:

Brian Topping | Director, Mission Engagement