New ARISE season offers ‘New Heart, New Spirit’

BRAINTREE -- Reconciliation will be the focus of the upcoming fourth season of ARISE Together in Christ, a parish-based spiritual renewal and evangelization program taking place across the Archdiocese of Boston.

“It’s about reconciliation -- reconciling ourselves,” said Mary Ann McLaughlin, the archdiocesan Co-Director of Worship and Spiritual Life. “For many of us, as members of the Church, there are things that keep us apart from the Church and one another. This season is going to help us take a look at those and be reconciled in order that we can live our faith in a more real way.”

The theme of this upcoming season is “New Heart, New Spirit.”

Leadership training for those who lead faith-sharing groups in their respective parishes will take place this month at various parishes across the archdiocese. Six faith-sharing sessions would then occur at the parishes during Lent this year.

McLaughlin said that small group faith-sharing is one way the Church has accomplished evangelization, a goal of ARISE.

“It’s taking a look at Scripture and finding a way to do that with others -- consciously acting on and living out what we believe,” McLaughlin said.

According to ARISE program guidelines, faith-sharing sessions consist of prayers, reflections, discussions, and opportunities to act upon faith and Scripture. Sessions open with a prayer and song, followed by a reflection. Later in the session, a biblical passage is read and more reflection and opportunities for sharing thoughts with a group follows. Sessions are rounded out by inviting participants to plan ways to transform faith into action, and close with a prayer.

McLaughlin said that, from its beginning, it was envisioned that ARISE would result in a deeper spirituality among Catholics, encourage multicultural participation, increase morale in the parishes, and enliven the liturgy.

“Experience shows that these objectives are well on their way to being achieved,” McLaughlin said.

ARISE began in 2007 when a survey asked parishioners across the archdiocese what they would like to see in a renewal program. According to McLaughlin, responses suggested an enhanced liturgy, connection between Scripture and daily life, the chance for people to speak about their faith with others, and outreach to the young adult population in the archdiocese.

RENEW International, a New Jersey-based organization that fosters Catholic spiritual renewal, designed the ARISE program for the archdiocese.

The program consists of five seasons, the first of which began in the fall of 2008. Each season has had a different theme, and they have all worked to encourage faith sharing and acting on Catholic beliefs. Season Five is set to begin in September 2010.

ARISE has spawned an array of social justice projects in parishes across the archdiocese.

According to testimonials from the program’s third season, St. Mary Parish in Dedham has purchased bibles for prison ministries, sent livestock to an African village, donated toiletries to needy veterans, wrote letters to seminarians, and sponsored a young parishioner to start a Life Teen program in Germany.

St. Mary Parish in Lynn had 27 ARISE groups consisting of parishioners of varying cultures. Currently, plans are underway there to ship pews and other religious items to Haiti to furnish a church being built there.

St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield raised over $300 for Catholic Charities at an ARISE meeting, and held a prayer vigil for a young mother suffering from terminal cancer. Later, the cancer disappeared.

St. Anthony/St. Mary Parish in Shirley and Ayer hosted a speaker to discuss international, national, and local human trafficking, and purchased gift cards to local retailers for recently-freed victims of human trafficking.

In October 2009, the archdiocese and ARISE held the first-ever Social Justice Convocation, which educated participants on Church social teaching and the many areas in which Catholics can be involved.

“It has really begun to take off,” said Ann Cussen, the operations associate in the archdiocese’s worship and spiritual life office. “It’s really inspirational.”

“The ARISE program has really brought us together as a community,” added Audrey Pugliesi, a parishioner at St. Mary’s in Dedham. “It really made us aware of our social obligations that as a community we are called to do something.”

Parishes who have not yet participated in ARISE but wish to do so may join at this time, McLaughlin said.