ARISE concludes, new program to launch in Lent

BRAINTREE -- Although the 3-year ARISE program has concluded, its success has resulted in a desire to see its spirit of prayer, reflection and faith sharing continue in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston.

In response, the archdiocese is announcing another similar program that will be implemented this coming Lent.

ARISE was a parish-centered program launched during the archdiocese's bicentennial year in 2008.

The program consisted of five uniquely-themed seasons spanning a three-year period, with the final season having just concluded. Topics touched on during the program included conversion, social justice and evangelization.

Participating parishes formed small faith-sharing groups which came together over each of the five seasons to pray together, reflect on Scripture and their Catholic faith and transform that faith into action.

Mary Ann McLaughlin, co-director of the archdiocese's Office for Worship and Spiritual Life, said Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, "wants us to continue with small, faith-sharing communities." She also said that the upcoming Lenten Longings is "following the same path as ARISE."

Lenten Longings is a six-week program that includes small-group discussion, prayer and personal reflection. Content for Lenten Longings is based on the Lectionary, with separate materials for Liturgical Years A, B and C. Each week's faith sharing activities will be based on the Scripture readings for that week.

The Lenten program is sponsored by Renew International, a New Jersey-based Catholic organization. Renew International sponsors faith-based initiatives, such as ARISE, which work for spiritual renewal, faith formation and evangelization among today's Catholics. Renew's programs are aimed at helping individuals and communities encounter God in daily life, enliven and share their faith and put that faith into action.

Ann Cussen, operations associate of the archdiocese's Worship and Spiritual Life office, said that many parishes wanted to continue the ARISE program even though its final season just recently concluded.

"We're getting a lot of calls from ARISE parishes saying we don't want this ARISE program to be over," said Cussen.

"Lenten Longings is next in chronological order," she also said.

McLaughlin said that 180 parishes participated in the ARISE program.

She said the "hallmarks" of the program were that it was offered in the languages of the various ethnic communities across the archdiocese and formed small Christian communities. It also included regional gatherings of participants from various parishes, as well as using common materials throughout the archdiocese. It also contained a call to live the Catholic faith.

ARISE has fostered a renewed sense of confidence in the Catholic faith and has brought people together to participate in activities that "reflect the Gospel message." It instilled a sense of "belonging, community and sense of being Catholic," according to McLaughlin.

"There's this moving forward," she said.

McLaughlin also said that the program has brought people back to the Church. Many participants have remarked on surveys that they will return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Others said that the program has fostered a new understanding of the sacrament's meaning.

Representatives from various parishes also said the program has had positive effects on the spiritual life of their parish.

Marian Morrison, the ARISE coordinator at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Wellesley, said that about 200 people from the parish participated in the program, splitting into an average of seven groups per session consisting of eight to 12 members each.

She said that while St. John's was already a "vibrant" parish, ARISE helped create "an opportunity for people to get to know who they might not know."

Through its call to action component, ARISE has also resulted in continuing social justice initiatives such as parishioners from St. John's helping to serve meals through Pine Street Inn.

Morrison said that ARISE groups from the parish can opt to participate in Lenten Longings.

"If they are so inclined, they are welcome to it," she said.

Gail Trainor, a group facilitator at St. Anselm Church in Sudbury, said that ARISE has fostered a "reawakening" of faith sharing and Scripture study among parishioners, including the young.

She also said that ARISE allowed participants to delve more deeply into their faith and experience the "joy" of sharing it with others.

"We don't live in isolation," she said. "It's to be shared and enjoyed together."

Trainor said that her group spoke extensively about evangelization. As a way to better and more simply understand its meaning, the group extracted the word "angel" from the word and concluded that Catholics should be "angels in people's lives."

"That was a lot less intimidating to people," Trainor said. "That really excited the group."

According to Trainor, her ARISE group has evaluated the possibility of continuing to meet and share their Catholic faith in a similar manner to which they did during the ARISE program's tenure. She said her group may participate in either Lenten Longings, Longing for the Holy, which is another Lenten program of Renew International, or even the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.