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Workshops provide tools for Arise program leaders

Mary Ann McLaughlin, co-coordinator of Arise, addresses parish leaders at Bishop Peterson Hall, Feb. 16. Pilot photo/Christine Williams

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BRIGHTON -- In preparation for the October launch of Arise, representatives from more than 160 parishes are attending workshops to give them the tools for spiritual renewal.

The “Arise: Together in Christ” program, organized for the Archdiocese of Boston by Renew International, is the centerpiece of Boston’s 200th anniversary celebration. The “Launching Arise Workshops” are being held throughout the archdiocese, and parishes can sign up for the nine remaining sessions at any time.

A parish-centered program, Arise will create small, vibrant faith communities in parishes throughout the archdiocese, sparking a renewal that will help Catholics to grow deeper in the faith, said Sister Honora Nolty, OP the Renew representative appointed to Boston.

The adult faith formation program is for everyone from college students to the elderly and from those Catholics active in parishes and those who have left the Church. The program will be available in six languages as well as American Sign Language, she told workshop attendees Feb. 16 at Bishop Peterson Hall in Brighton.

The first Arise session will begin on Oct. 5 and is entitled “Encountering Christ.” In all, six sessions will be held in the archdiocese over the next three years. Each session of the program will last for six weeks, and small groups of parishioners will gather in homes for 90 minutes each week to discuss the Gospel, pray, and participate in faith sharing. The program is an invitation to put faith into action, Sister Honora continued.

“The work we are about is really God’s work,” she said. “We will do our part, and you will do your part, but God will bring about the results. It’s not about us.”

At the “Launching Arise” workshops, parish leaders participate in faith sharing, a key element of any Renew program.

Renew International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in Plainfield, N.J., in the Archdiocese of Newark. Formed in 1978, Renew 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.

The program has been utilized in 24 countries, 155 of the 170 dioceses in the United States and is currently working in over 30 dioceses in three countries.

In Boston, leaders from each participating parish will form a team of 8-12 Catholics responsible for organizing Arise activities and inviting the faithful to the program.

At the workshops, each parish is provided with Arise materials, including a package of prayer cards, a binder with the parish team’s handbook and two Renew books -- “PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels Cycle A” and “Sowing Seeds: Essentials for Small Community Leaders.”

Additionally, the materials contain a letter from Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley to the Arise leadership teams. During the bicentennial year, Boston Catholics should give thanks for the 200 year-history of the archdiocese and continue to make positive contributions to their parishes, he said.

“It is understandable that at times the task may seem daunting, indeed there are many challenges in the midst of a culture that questions the relevance of faith and belief in God. At such moments we remember our Lord’s promise to be with us always and to grant us the grace and strength for the mission entrusted to us,” he added.

Addressing parish representatives at the Feb. 16 session, Mary Ann McLaughlin, co-coordinator of Arise and co-director of the Office for Worship and Spiritual Life, said the Arise program will spark spiritual renewal that will heal the archdiocese.

“There is an excitement that is building, and the excitement is what happens with spiritual renewal,” she said. “Today we are in the early stages of something, I think, is going to be transformative for us in our 200th year as the Archdiocese of Boston.”

Renew has spent the last three years designing the Arise program to meet the needs of the Archdiocese of Boston. Renew leaders have listened intently and conducted a survey open to all Catholics in the archdiocese to gather more information, she said.

Renew representative Sister Maureen Colleary, FSP responded to participants’ concern about the pain Boston Catholics have been through during the sexual abuse crisis and reconfiguration. Some Catholics are skeptical of the effectiveness of a spiritual renewal program, they said.

Sister Maureen urged parish leaders not to worry and to trust that God will bring about the renewal through their work.

“God wants to use your gifts to build up your parish, this archdiocese,” she said. “The Holy Spirit is running this show.”

Carol Abel, the music director at St. Ann Parish in Dorchester who attended the workshop, said she is confident that Arise will renew parish life.

“I just finished the Renew program in the Fall River Diocese, and what it did for our parish was a miracle,” she said. “It transforms.”

The community at her parish in Fall River grew close because the program opened up dialogue, giving people a safe place to talk, she said.

Three different workshops will be offered to provide additional leadership preparation before the official launch of Arise. In April, parish teams will learn about the tools for evangelization, and in May, they will attend liturgy workshops. In September, training sessions will be held for small community leaders.

Six English sessions of the “Launching Arise Workshops” still remain on Feb. 25 in Milton and Malden, on Feb. 26 in North Reading, on Feb. 27 in Brighton, on Feb. 28 in Duxbury and on March 1 in Newton. Two sessions in Spanish, on Feb. 26 and 28, and one in Portuguese on Feb. 27 will be held in Brighton.

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