... offering Meeting Christ in Prayer sends a clear message that their evangelization efforts will be rooted in prayer, and the success of the collaborative will be the fruit of a prayerful community.
St. Brigid and Sacred Heart parishes are in a unique position. They were together under one pastor, Father Arnold Colletti, for 10 years, well before June 2015, when they became the Lexington Catholic Collaborative -- in Phase III of Disciples in Mission. Their website describes their mindset: One body of Christ in two houses of God.
Msgr. Paul Garrity, pastor of the collaborative, and the staff, councils, collaborative leadership, and parishioners are putting prayer squarely in the center of their collaborative life. To this end, they have begun "Meeting Christ in Prayer," an eight week guided prayer experience based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The program, designed by the Archdiocese of Boston Office of Spiritual Life, was originally titled "Living with Christ." It has been offered in hundreds of parishes to thousands of Catholics who wish to deepen their prayer life. Msgr. Garrity says, "I am hoping that this program will set the stage for the Holy Spirit to help us move ahead."
The Lexington Catholic Collaborative, like all Phase III collaboratives, has been involved in workshop training and formation since the fall. All workshop components include prayer, but offering Meeting Christ in Prayer sends a clear message that their evangelization efforts will be rooted in prayer, and the success of the collaborative will be the fruit of a prayerful community. No prior experience is needed to be part of this prayer initiative -- there is no "level of prayer competency" required to be in a group, just a desire to learn and prayer better. In Lexington, 160 people have registered. Each prayer group is limited to 10 participants to better facilitate discussion. Groups meet on church property and in homes. Prayer experiences include imaginative prayer, meditation, and Lectio Divina (Divine Reading), a method of reading scripture that is part of the Rule of St. Benedict, although its origin pre-dates monasticism.
Farther north, the Littleton-Westford Collaborative of St. Anne and St. Catherine of Alexandria, is a Phase II collaborative -- one year older than Lexington. Having submitted the draft of their Local Pastoral Plan, Littleton-Westford is working on their final version. They are at a different place on the collaborative timeline than Lexington, but they are offering Meeting Christ in Prayer to their parishioners as well. In addition to promoting the program on their websites and bulletin, they prepared a two-minute video on YouTube that ends with the powerful invitation, "Jesus is waiting to have a prayerful conversation with you." Their advertising paid off. Peg Hicks, collaborative pastoral associate reports that they have 312 participants in 29 small groups meeting at both parishes, and in parishioners' homes. A sign of hope is that they also have groups with teenagers and young adults (those 20-30 years old).
Peg attributes part of the good response to Meeting Christ in Prayer to the success of a similar program ("Living the Eucharist") that their pastor, Father Peter Quinn introduced some time ago. She gives "high praise and thanks ... to parishioners Peg Howson and Kathy McGourty for recruiting leaders, assigning groups, and scheduling, assisted by Chris and Jim Zeoli." Father Joe Rossi, collaborative parochial vicar, participates in one of the groups, and commented "I have been very moved by the sincere, faith-filled and imaginative witness of the people in my group at St. Anne's."
Littleton-Westford is also planning a 24/7 Prayer and Fasting program, March 6-12. Their bulletin describes it as, "a week-long journey of prayer and fasting. Individuals will commit to 30-minute blocks of continuous, intentional prayer so there is 24 hour coverage throughout the week." Parishioners can sign up for as many 30-minute blocks of time as they want. They choose the time and place that works best for them. The second part of this program is fasting, "Fasting may be a fast from food or from something that consumes your personal time." The purpose is, "... to rekindle prayer lives." It is also a reminder, "how God calls [us] to pray in order to bring about Christ-like conversion in hearts, families and the world, and help discern His will for (our) lives."
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth." Seeds of evangelization and discipleship are being planted in these collaboratives.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.