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ARISE bears fruit in Texas parish.

“Walking the walk” became much more than a cliché when members of a parish in Texas participated in the first season of ARISE Together in Christ, a process of spiritual renewal and evangelization from RENEW International.

According to Racheal Garza, who leads the parish program, more than 350 men and women joined the small Christian communities at St. Michael Church in Levelland, a city of more than 13,000 people in the Diocese of Lubbock in the northwestern part of the state.

Each of the six sessions of an ARISE season invites participants to share their faith and then to put it into action in their everyday lives. That message wasn’t lost on the folks at St. Michael.

For example, Racheal said, she identified three women who were willing to create a “Giving Tree” in order to collect items for residents of a local nursing home. One of the women recruited a friend to help.

St Michael Giving Tree
    Members of St. Michael Parish in Levelland, Texas, pose with the “Giving Tree’’ they created in order to collect items for residents of a local nursing home. From left, Wendy Chairez, Gina Frescaz, Alexis Fierro (seated), Maggie Fierro, and Jovita Castillo.

“I told them this was all theirs,’’ Racheal recalled. “They could create the paper ornaments and a system to keep track of the donations. We had an overwhelming response. We have two nursing homes nearby, and one never gets helped. One of the women asked the director what was needed and he said such things as socks, candy bars, gum, and toiletries. I couldn’t believe the response. We had truck loads and people were just so happy to help.’’

Another group of ARISE participants worked on a program to help children who are not adequately fed, Racheal said. “I identified people who were not well known in the parish, but all they needed was to be asked.’’

Racheal explained the inspiration for the project, which was called “Bill’s Back Packs’’:

“One of our longtime teachers had a brother who was very much for social justice. He would participate in ‘starvathons’ to raise money for people who had no food. He passed away very young, and she wanted to do something in his honor.

“She identified kids who fell through the cracks, who go hungry. The only meals they get are at school. There were more than she figured there would be. If she found one in the high school, she’d find out that there were brothers and sisters at home.’’

The group organized food collections for those children—such things as fruit snacks, breakfast items, and meals that could be heated up in a microwave oven if parents were not at home.

Racheal said the children were provided with plain backpacks so that it wouldn’t be obvious that they were taking food home from school.

Another project that involved members of the ARISE small communities was a free dinner at which four participants gave testimony about their faith.

    Guests listen to speaker before the dinner inspired by the ARISE participants at St. Michael Parish in Levelland, Texas.

Racheal said all the parish organizations worked together on the event.

Child care was provided for the children of the 250 adults attending the dinner, and the Knights of Columbus Council cooked hot dogs for those children. A Marian group known as the Guadalupanas, whose ministry is providing repasts following funerals in the parish, supported this dinner by making six hundred enchiladas. Another group made rice and beans, and a restaurant where several parishioners are employed provided chips and salsa.

Fr. Rudolf Crasta, pastor at St. Michael Parish, approved the use of funds for the event.

“We were able to feed everybody—and the children—for under six hundred dollars,’’ Racheal said.

The involvement of small-group members in these initiatives fulfilled a parish ambition, Racheal said: “We wanted some fruit to come out of the ARISE program.’’

These young people, from left, Angela Godoy, Justin Corrales, Stephanie Bojorquez, Elias Mata, Nathan Osorino, and Michael Osorino, worked the kitchen for the January dinner inspired by the ARISE groups at St. Michael Parish in Levelland, Texas.

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