Journey to Damascus Overview
The Journey to Damascus (JTD) was initiated as a Catholic sponsored ecumenical effort to promote leadership and service among Christian women and men from all faith backgrounds in a spirit of Christian Unity. Centered in the person of Jesus Christ, its goal is the promotion of mutual Christian values, partnership in promoting God’s kingdom and servant leadership in church communities. As Pope Francis tells us, “To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity.”
JTD has two principal wellsprings: The Catholic ‘Cursillo’ and the Methodist ‘Walk to Emmaus’. The Cursillo was started in Spain in 1949. It was a “short course in Christianity”, experienced in a 72- hour period from Thursday to Sunday. The Walk to Emmaus patterned itself on the Cursillo model. The Upper Room, a ministry unit of the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church, sponsors the Walk to Emmaus.
The Journey to Damascus is offered on separate weekends for men and women. During the weekend, which runs from Thursday at 5:00 pm to Sunday at 3:00 pm, there are 13 talks given by laypeople and clergy which touch upon, among other things, God’s gift of Grace, what it means to be disciples, how we can change the world by first changing ourselves, and the meaning of “Love and Unity.” An atmosphere of communal prayer and daily worship permeates the weekend. Minds and hearts open up to the Holy Spirit. Small group activities foster a spirit of dialogue and mutual understanding. Hearts are touched, lives are changed and servant leadership grows the Christian community.
The Walk to Emmaus is “grounded theologically and institutionally in the Upper Room Ministry unit of the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church.” Hence, when adapting it to express a Roman Catholic perspective, the Journey to Damascus evolved. Therefore, the Journey to Damascus is theologically and institutionally grounded in Catholic beliefs and practices and Mass is celebrated. But in the spirit of ecumenism we embrace the beliefs and practices of those of other faiths and are more focused on ways we are alike than ways we are different. As a result, the experience opens the minds and hearts of our entire Journey to Damascus community, which is comprised of both Catholics and Protestants, to mutual understanding among all Christian sisters and brothers. All builds up to strengthening the Body of Christ and to service and leadership in our various churches.
A group of clergy and laity began planning the Journey to Damascus in the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1998. The first Journey weekend was held there in 1999, as well as the next 22 Journey weekends. Catholics from the greater Houston area participated in some of these weekends. Convinced of the energizing spiritual power of the weekend, they formed a committee to bring the Journey experience to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The first Journey in Houston was held at Circle Lake Retreat Center in February, 2004. Since then, Journey weekends have been experienced by over 1,000 people and our community is continuing to grow. We have branched into the Central Texas area with weekends held at the Omega Retreat Center in Boerne, Texas, north of San Antonio. We look forward to spreading this amazing ministry throughout Texas and beyond.
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