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Shortly after Cardinal Seán arrived in Boston he asked the staff of the then-Office of Spiritual Development (now, the Office of Worship and Spiritual Life) to meet with him. In that meeting he spoke of RENEW International and his experience of working with them in other dioceses. He had hopes of using the expertise of the RENEW process to help the Church in Boston begin to move from isolation to communion by forming small faith sharing communities. The meeting that day was only the beginning...there would be a number of years of consultation.
From that consultation, a new program was written for Boston. The program was called ARISE: Together in Christ. In the following three years over 180 parishes participated and more than 30,000 people took part in small faith sharing communities. The ARISE: Together in Christ program not only flourished in parishes, but moved beyond parishes to local prisons, assisted living communities, school faculties, etc. The prayer of participants was linked to action as people acted on what had been shared in the gatherings. In homes, neighborhoods and workplaces the Word became flesh, shared faith resulted in actions that reached around the world. As we came to the end of the three year process the question was clear: How do we continue to nurture the communion that has begun in these small faith sharing communities and what is the best way of doing that?
Evangelization is at the heart of the pastoral planning process recently announced by Cardinal Seán. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be hearing more about the Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. The heart of the plan is for us as a Church to become the Body of Christ in the world. In addition to participation in the Sunday Eucharist, every parish has the opportunity to take part in the adult faith formation and evangelization process entitled Why Catholic? A Journey Through the Catechism, beginning this Lent.
Why Catholic? fosters this idea of "excellence in faith formation" for all ages by helping participants explore Catholic teachings on important topics like prayer, the Creed, sacraments, and Christian morality. The materials are offered for adults as well as families, and the faith enrichment sessions are open to all parishioners. Why Catholic? will not only offer the opportunity to strengthen our Catholic faith but it will give us the opportunity to learn the language of faith as we share faith with one another.
Why Catholic? A Journey through the Catechism is available to all parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston. Small community leaders will be trained in regional workshops the weeks of Jan. 28 through Feb. 4. The regional workshops will be offered in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Vietnamese. In addition to these, languages materials will be available in Haitian Creole, Lithuanian, and Chinese. During Lent there will be six weeks of faith sharing in small groups. The focus will be on forms of prayer as it is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, praying together, sharing faith with one another and then making the connection between faith and action.
In the Fall 2012 a Why Catholic? Faith Formation Enrichment Session will be offered in each region of the archdiocese. All parishioners will be invited to participate; those who took part in the small groups will be invited, along with other parishioners who were not part of the small group gatherings. These gatherings will reflect on what it means for Catholics to Pray.
In early October another six week small group faith sharing will begin. Below is an outline of the schedule for the year.
January -- Why Catholic? Small Community Leader Training Workshops held regionally.
Jan. 28/29 -- Sign-up Sunday
Feb. 11/12 -- Prayer Commitment Sunday
February -- Why Catholic? Faith Sharing begins in the parishes during the six weeks of Lent.
Feb. 19 -- Mar 31 Sessions 1-6
September --Why Catholic? Faith Formation Enrichment Sessions held regionally for all.
Sept. 15/16 -- Sign-up Sunday
Sept. 28/29 -- Prayer Commitment Sunday
October -- Why Catholic? Faith Sharing begins in the parishes for six weeks.
Oct. 7-Nov. 17 Sessions 7-12
Our three year experience of participating in ARISE: Together in Christ as an archdiocese has helped us to learn the language of faith and to share that faith with one another in small communities. Why Catholic? A Journey Through the Catechism allows us now to gather together to pay attention to what it means to live as Catholics in the ordinary experience of our daily lives.
I am a cradle Catholic...I was born into a Catholic family, educated in Catholic schools and colleges. As an adult I try to live my faith in the ordinary experiences of family life and in my work. My faith is nourished by so many tools the Church offers but it is nourished principally by daily participation in the celebration of the Eucharist at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Newton.
Recently I read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer: it is 'the pure offering' of the whole Body of Christ to the glory of God's name and according to the traditions of East and West, it is the 'sacrifice of praise.'" (#2643)
Reading this little section of the catechism helped me realize something that I had noticed but hadn't fully articulated. On Sunday -- and for some, daily -- Catholics gather together across this archdiocese to pray the Eucharist. Together we listen to the Word from Scripture, as it is proclaimed and preached. Together we offer the living sacrifice of praise that is our lives -- lived in ordinary circumstances and sometimes very messy. Together we hear the words of the Eucharistic Prayer and give thanks. Together we hear the words of consecration prayed by the priest. Together we witness the movement of the Holy Spirit and before our eyes, bits of bread and drops of wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Together we are nourished by this miracle of "Christ with us" in order that we can go back to our homes and workplaces and become the Body of Christ -- his hands, his feet, his voice in the world we live in. This is what it means to evangelize.
The time is always right to get on board with Why Catholic? But, Lent is especially well-suited for a spiritual experience that also provides excellent faith formation. What's more, Why Catholic? offers a friendly way to welcome Catholics home to the parish and into community through its small-group model of faith-sharing. RENEW International staff, in collaboration with our office, will equip your lay leaders with a thorough series of training and support. If your parish hasn't already signed on, give us a call. Please contact the Office of Worship and Spiritual Life for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bostoncatholic.org/whycatholic.
Mary Ann McLaughlin is director of Spiritual Life in the Office of Worship and Spiritual Life.