|Anyone who has gone to or driven by a Catholic church in the past few weeks has heard the announcement or seen the banner: ARISE Together In Christ.|
It’s not just a roadside exhortation for believers, but the launch of an ambitious, three-year renewal program that the Archdiocese of Boston hopes will revive the spiritual commitment of parishioners who’ve been shaken by the clergy sex-abuse scandal and parish closings.
Designed specifically for the Boston Archdiocese, the small-group study sessions will begin Oct. 5 and continue through November 2010. They’re expected to involve tens of thousands of members in about half the parishes in eastern Massachusetts.
After years of trauma and disenchantment, "we think this will enliven the parishes," said Mary Ann McLaughlin of the Archdiocese Office of Worship and Spiritual Life.
ARISE was prepared by RENEW International, a Catholic program in Plainfield, N.J., that’s affiliated with the Archdiocese of Newark. (RENEW also produced the Theology On Tap program that has been staged at Bad Abbots in Quincy and other area pubs.)
Launched as the archdiocese celebrates its 200th anniversary, ARISE will be held through November 2010, in five ``seasons'' of six weeks each. To cover the Boston area’s diversity, ARISE will be taught in six languages – English, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese and Lithuanian.
Groups of 10 to 12 parishioners will gather to study the Bible and discuss how to live out Christian teachings more deeply – from more activity in social missions to a readiness to share their faith.
"Cradle Catholics are not so much in the habit of daily Bible reading," McLaughlin said. "We think this will help people hear the Scripture with new ears, and make it more present in their lives."
ARISE also aims to instill a fresh interest in evangelizing, the faith-sharing practice that’s most often associated these days with conservative Protestants.
Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome said the program holds great promise to inspire lay Catholics to deeper participation. BC history professor James O’Toole of Milton said ARISE is the first such renewal campaign in the archdiocese’s history, and perhaps in the American Catholic Church. Nothing like it was needed in generations past, he said, when Catholic life was heavily rooted in the parish.
O’Toole said the evangelization element could prove to be crucial in strengthening young Catholics’ looser ties to the institutional church.
McLaughlin said Cardinal Sean O’Malley didn’t plan the program as a direct response to the sex-abuse crisis and parish closings. He first worked with RENEW when he was bishop in Fall River in the 1990s. But she said the cardinal and other archdiocese leaders believe ARISE can help parishes deal with "a variety of challenges," including the loss of thousands of churchgoers in recent years.
Jane Kuklis at St. Mary’s in Scituate is confident that ARISE will make a difference. As one of her parish’s religious education directors, she helped lead an ARISE-style pilot program, RENEW For the 21st Century, in 2003, and she said the fruits of that effort are still visible.
More parishioners are involved with the Cradles To Crayons and Heifer International donation projects. St. Mary’s joined Protestant churches in an ecumenical Appalachian mission project. And Kuklis still gets together with friends she made in the pilot program, to share their spiritual lives and brainstorm new service ideas.
In the midst of an accelerating culture of change, "it opens many doors for your faith," Kuklis said.
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.