Small groups share faith as parishes ‘ARISE Together’

By Maureen Walsh, courtesy of The Holbrook Sun
Photo by Brian Naughton

St. Joseph Parish of Holbrook is joining more than 160 others throughout the Boston archdiocese in a three-year faith renewal program called “ARISE Together in Christ.”

The parish is forming small, faith-sharing groups that are at the heart of the program.

ARISE was created at the request of Cardinal Sean O’Malley in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the archdiocese, said Mary Ann McLaughlin, director of the Office of Worship and Spiritual Life.

“People were asking for ways to share faith with one another,” she said. “They were asking for ways to connect their lives with Scripture, for ways to help young adults find a home in local parishes.

“They were also looking for ways to enhance the celebration of the Eucharist by helping people make the connection with the Eucharist and daily life.”

The program is organized into five six-week “seasons,” one each fall and spring, from now through November. 2010.

In each season, groups of six to 10 participants meet for 90 minutes once a week to reflect on Gospel readings, share personal faith experiences, and apply the lessons to their lives in the coming week.

Days of the week and meeting times are flexible to fit into individual schedules.

Groups are facilitated by trained lay volunteers, and a small ARISE booklet provides Scripture readings and materials to guide each session.

“At the end of every meeting is an invitation to act, look at what we’ve heard in the Gospel and what we’ve heard in faith-sharing, and say, ‘Okay, what difference does this make for me this week, and in what small way can I respond?’” McLaughlin said.

“You don’t have to be a very active church member to participate. You don’t have to be a theologian. There’s no testing people in their knowledge of the faith.

“It’s really about how the Gospel touches your life and how your life looks in relation to the Gospel and your relationship with Christ.”

St. Joseph Parish held sign-ups for ARISE groups after Masses the past two weekends and plans to begin the first six-week “season” next week.

Parishioners, inactive Catholics, and interested members of all faiths are encouraged to contact the parish at any time for information on the ARISE program.

Reflect, share, act

“Our team is looking at ARISE as a spiritual journey that will enable people to develop a closer relationship with Christ, grow in community, and reach out in service to others,” said Donna Wells, ARISE coordinator for St. Joseph Parish.
At each meeting, the small groups will read and reflect on both a real-life story and the coming week’s Gospel, she said.

Members will be encouraged to share their experiences and points of view.

They will leave with several questions or statements to reflect on during the week and an invitation to act on the Gospel message.

“We hope one thing that comes from these sessions is that people will become comfortable talking about faith, not just with other Catholics in the parish, but with people at work and in the grocery store,” Wells said.

“It’s an opportunity to share, not necessarily the Catholic faith, but our Christian faith, and not just to talk about it, but to act in ways that show our Christian beliefs.”

Some of the groups forming may be of more interest to men or women, married couples, young mothers, single adults or teens, she said, while other ARISE groups will have a mix of participants.

“We’d like to invite people to either talk to one of the team members or sign up and find out for themselves what ARISE is about,” Wells said.

“It’s not too late to join a group. If you miss the first meeting, come to the second meeting and find out for yourself if this is for you.”

If a group doesn’t seem like the right fit for someone, then the ARISE team will help that person find a group that’s more comfortable, Wells said.

“I think what the ARISE groups will find is that they become a small family, even in just six weeks,” she said. “They are going to find friendships they never thought they would have, and they are going to be long-lasting.”

Wells encouraged parishioners and those in the wider community to see the ARISE display in the vestibule and consider adding a card (no name required) to the Commitment Tree at the back of the church.

The tree also holds ‘Thank You” magnets for those who support the ARISE program as participants or in prayer.

The parish-centered ARISE program was developed for the Boston archdiocese by Renew International, a private organization based in New Jersey that provides spiritual training support to more than 150 dioceses in the United States and 23 countries around the world.

For more information on “ARISE Together in Christ,” contact Wells at (781) 767-0605 or visit the website at www.renewintl.org.

Click to learn more about ARISE Together in Christ.

About RENEW International RENEW International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in Plainfield, NJ, in the Archdiocese of Newark. RENEW International fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action. Since 1980 RENEW International has revitalized parish life in over 150 dioceses in the United States, touching the lives of 25 million people through its renewal processes. RENEW International also reaches many thousands outside the United States, having served people in 23 countries, across six continents and in 44 languages.