ARISE was life-changing for this leader

When Christina Schneider was invited to lead an ARISE group in 2011, she wasn’t sure the role suited her.

After all, she said, “how could I be a ‘leader’ in a faith-sharing group when I didn’t consider myself religious at all?’’

Which is not to say that Christina, who lives in the Diocese of London in Ontario, wasn’t a church-goer.

Quite the contrary.

“I grew up going to church every Sunday,’’ she said. “I went to religion classes, and there were times that we would say the rosary as a family.

“But when I moved away for school, I slowly started drifting away.’’

Christina Schneider of Ontario, Canada, with her husband,
Darrell, who participates in ARISE with her

Then a family tragedy — the sudden death of her younger brother, Robbie —made Christina feel an even greater distance from the faith of her childhood.

“This made me very angry with God,’’ she said. “Why and how could he do this to us? How could he take someone so young?

“I continued going to church, because that was what I had always done. I was present physically but not spiritually. I found myself thinking about other things and not listening at all to what was being said.’’

But Christina accepted the invitation to lead a group in ARISE, the five-season faith-sharing process from RENEW International, and she is happy she did.

The ARISE experience has brought her fully “back to church,’’ she said, and has deepened her relationship with God, with her parents, who joined ARISE at the same time, and with her husband, whom she married shortly before the ARISE sessions began.

“My parents started their journey with me,’’ Christina said. “In the past I would avoid any subject that had to do with religion. I know it hurt them to see me walking away from the church. But now it is the opposite. I openly talk about God and do not turn away when they say something as well. We are in different groups but we talk about how we felt about each week’s session.’’

Although Christina’s husband, Darrell, is not Catholic, he goes to Mass with her every Sunday at St. Joseph’s parish in Listowel and participates in every ARISE session.

“He has seen how important this has become for me,” Christina said. “On December 24, 2012, we had our first child, Hailey. He had no questions or objections when I told him it was important to me to raise her Catholic.’’

Christina said that the impact ARISE had on her life unfolded gradually during the seasons of the process.

“Early in Season 1 is when I started to look at my relationship with God,’’ she recalled. In the gospel reading in Session 2 (Mark 8:27-35) Jesus asks the disciples, ‘but who do you say I am?’ I never really thought about who I thought Jesus was. I started to really think.

“That’s when I realized I wanted a relationship that was more than just going to church. I started getting back to praying at night and started to take ARISE more seriously.

At the end of Season 2, Christina said, she stopped being mad at God over Robbie’s death: “I started really thinking about Easter and how God gave up his only son for us. The path he gives us and the tragedies we face are not meant to hurt us.

“The question in the last session asks if we find it easier to be aware of God’s presence or to turn to God during a low time. Robbie’s death was a very low time, and I was asking why when I really should have been asking for help and guidance.’

Christina said that while she is not usually comfortable taking on a public role, she was helped in leading her ARISE group by what she learned from one of the gospel readings — Luke 24:13-35.

“Jesus appears to the two men and they do not recognize him,’’ Christina explained, referring to the disciples who encountered the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus.

“I believe that Jesus is present: we may not see him, but he is there.’’

Christina, who had once started to drift away from the Church, said she is considering getting involved in the ministries of her parish, and she concluded:

“I do believe none of the changes that I have been through would have happened without my being a part of ARISE.’’

The Diocese of London in Ontario, Canada is participating in RENEW International’s process for spiritual renewal and the New Evangelization, ARISE Together in Christ. Also available in Spanish and French.

For more information about bringing ARISE Together in Christ to your parish, please submit our inquiry form.

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