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Though the first year of the ARISE Together in Christ program concluded at the end of 2008, things have not slowed down.
The effects of the program have continued to be seen throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, said program coordinator Mary Ann McLaughlin.
People are sharing their experiences of ARISE and a desire to be a part of the program has become contagious, she said.
Parishes continue to sign onto ARISE and now as the second year of the program begins, approximately 180 parishes, a number of retreat centers, religious houses, schools, nursing homes and even a prison are on board.
“The program is a parish-based program; however, it is a program of spiritual renewal and evangelization so by its very nature it goes beyond the parish,” said McLaughlin. “People, who live in the parish, take the program where they work, to assisted living facilities, to retreat houses, to other priests and so we are getting a lens to see how evangelization works in a whole other way.”
The Second Vatican Council called Catholics to become leaven in their environments so that they can have a positive affect on those around them and this is one example of what that looks like, she said.
The members of the small groups, who met for six weeks during the first year of ARISE, took what they heard from the Gospel and from each other and incorporated it into their normal, everyday lives, McLaughlin continued.
“I think that there is desire on the part of ordinary Catholics to share their faith and find doable ways of doing that and I am hearing extraordinary responses and any concerns about how it would work seem to have disappeared,” said McLaughlin, who has been receiving daily calls from parishes interested in starting ARISE. “It has been incredible and the stories of people’s experiences have been quite extraordinary.”
It seems that everyone is getting involved: pastors, pastoral associates, parishioners, people who have participated in the Church and people who have not, old and young, rich and poor, single and married.
“The whole cross section of what we have in parishes is showing up in the small groups,” said McLaughlin.
The theme for the second season of ARISE is “Change Our Hearts,” which is paraphrased from a line in the Psalms in which God’s people make a plea to help them become the people he made them to be.
The theme is appropriate for Lent, said McLaughlin, because as Catholics we are especially mindful of our need to convert at this time. “Conversion is central to who we are as Catholics. Our whole lives are spent growing into stature with Christ through our baptism,” said McLaughlin. “Every Lent, Christ, in His Church, invites us to pay attention and be more intentional about this process of conversion, which is about growing into full stature with Christ.”