In recognition of the need to be attuned to today’s pastoral needs around the world, RENEW International reaches out to the people and parishes globally through the combined efforts of its Pastoral Services Team. This consolidated team collaborates to deliver quality service to parishes, campuses and dioceses, across RENEW’s wide-ranging ministries: Why Catholic?, ¿Por qué ser católico?, ARISE Together in Christ, LEVANTATE Unamonos en Cristo, RENEW: Spiritual Renewal for the 21st Century, as well as the Young Adult Ministries of Campus RENEW and RENEW Theology on Tap. Our ministry services are offered both in the United States and internationally with trainings and materials in multiple languages.
Why Catholic? and ¿Por qué ser católico?
Dioceses around the United States continue to adopt Why Catholic? and ¿Por qué ser católico? as highly effective means to address the needs for solid faith formation and evangelization for adults. With its rich catechetical content and faith-sharing format, the Why Catholic? materials, faith enrichment workshops, and retreat experiences combine to offer a powerful means of connecting people to their faith, and helping people connect their faith to their lives.
Highlights of 2007-2008
As tens of thousands experience a “journey through the catechism” with Why Catholic? our Pastoral Services staff has listened to participants’ feedback to make the process even more enriching. Book one, The Profession of Faith, has been completely revised and piloted to incorporate more information from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, and to provide a more accessible treatment of the truths contained in the Creed. At the same time, the Why Catholic? presenters have also revised and enhanced many of the fourteen Why Catholic? workshop and retreat events, keeping them fresh and meaningful.
In addition, the Why Catholic? Parish Kit now contains Sowing Seeds: Essentials for Small Community Leaders, an upgraded and comprehensive universal handbook for use by small group leaders, replacing The Small Community Handbook that has been part of the parish kit since 2004.
Taking advantage of the new RENEW web site enhancements, the pastoral team has upgraded parish support for those experiencing Why Catholic? Parishes can now download files, engage in discussions with parishes nationwide in the discussion forum, and receive broadcast newsletters with helpful reminders and good ideas for parish Why Catholic? teams. The team has also developed new web-based materials linking topics on civic responsibility from Life in Christ: Walking with God with the US bishops’ document for the election year.
¿Por qué ser católico? is making its first incursion into the Caribbean and South America. With great enthusiasm, the Diocese of Ponce, Puerto Rico, joined us during this past year. After almost a year of conversation, we started with ¿Por qué ser católico? in its Latin American version, different from what is offered among Hispanics in the United States. In completing the preparation year, three new workshops have been developed to answer the needs and reality of this diocese, helping them to organize parishes into the process of small Christian communities and to prepare the leaders of these communities. Twenty-six of the diocese’s 43 parishes are starting faith-sharing sessions this October.
In the Diocese of Evansville, Wabash Correctional Facility is a maximum security prison with a director who is trying to create a different, more humane way of dealing with inmates. The grounds are well cared for featuring gardens tended by inmates who are allowed a certain amount of mobility.
In keeping with this benevolent approach, Father Robert Nemergut, the Catholic Chaplain of facility, had the idea to ask Sr. Geraldine Hedinger of the Adult Faith Formation office if the inmates could participate in Why Catholic? with the rest of the Diocese of Evansville.
At the first gathering, a group of 27 volunteers and inmates met in library. There was a prayer table as a focal point and chairs arranged in a circle. The prison supplied the projector for the information session.
The gathered group decided to establish three small communities, each co-led by a volunteer and an inmate. The coordinator was an inmate named John, and Sr. Honora Nolty of RENEW International communicated with him through the chaplain to run the regular training sessions when she worked in Evansville.
Kevin, an inmate who was one of the two leaders on the Northside wing, wrote Sr. Honora to ask about the faith-sharing bulletins which accompany the books. Since the inmates have no access to the Internet to retrieve the bulletins, RENEW International sent the bulletins as a gift.
In his letter Kevin said, “We as a group are experiencing something that has been lacking in our Catholic journey, a deeper understanding of the Catechism.”
Outlook for 2009 and Beyond
As Why Catholic? continues to expand across the United States, including Ponce, Puerto Rico, RENEW works to incorporate new elements and to revise and adapt current materials in response to user feedback and the changing needs of our church. The parish experience will be supported more fully by the development of new Internet-based tools, communications, and documents.
ARISE Together in Christ
ARISE Together in Christ is one of the newest and most vibrant shoots on the RENEW International tree of life. This two-and-a-half year process of spiritual renewal and evangelization is built on RENEW’s tried and true elements: small Christian community faith-sharing and lay leadership training. While the parish experience will officially start in the Archdiocese of Boston in October 2008, it emerged as the result of two years of intense and focused listening to the people of God and the clergy in Boston. It is significant that in the Bicentennial year of his Archdiocese, Cardinal Seán O’Malley has chosen to offer this process as the spiritual centerpiece of their celebration.
Highlights of 2007-2008
ARISE Together in Christ is truly an Archdiocesan collaborative effort. Three thousand people representing more than 150 parishes have attended the Launching, Liturgy and Evangelization workshops that provide the foundation for a successful implementation. These workshops feature practical ways to bring the call of the Gospel to life in the ARISE process plan.
What makes ARISE even more potent are the numerous ways in which different groups and populations are invited to participate, broadening the reach across ages and nationalities. RENEW International staff members are working with:
||The Office of New Evangelization and Youth Ministry to provide materials and training for high school-aged youths and youth ministers in all parishes
||The Office of Religious Education and the Directors of Religious Education of all parishes to introduce children in Grades 1 – 6 to the faith sharing process.
||Prison chaplains to offer ARISE to those incarcerated.
||The Office of Cultural Diversity to translate and provide the faith-sharing materials in six languages.
Outlook for 2009 and Beyond
In the coming year ARISE Together in Christ will respond to two areas specifically requested on the survey. We will be, as it were, putting out new roots for new shoots. In our second season, during the Spring of 2009, our young adult workshop, Preparing a Place: Becoming a Young Adult Responsive Parish will be offered. In Season Three, RENEW International will partner with Catholic Charities to provide Called to Live the Just Word: Immersion and Reflection Experience. This event will focus on justice and service to others.
Good News Story
Summer vacations were just around the corner and members of St. Julia Parish wanted to create some buzz about the ARISE Together in Christ program before parishioners packed their bags. So group leaders introduced the faith initiative to parishioners during an early June weekend to encourage them to become involved in September.
“We wanted to get the word out and publicize the program prior to summer when people go away,” said Joan Duffy, longtime parishioner and co-coordinator of the ARISE program at St. Julia Parish. “This was an attempt to familiarize as many people as possible before we have sign-ups in September because if we are hoping to be successful in the fall, we need to start early.”
Wearing t-shirts with the ARISE logo, Duffy, pastor Father George Evans, and other members of the ARISE leadership team encouraged people to think about becoming involved by greeting mass-goers, handing out refreshments after mass, and answering questions. In addition, Father Evans spoke about the ARISE program at each of the Masses.
Father Evans praised the ARISE team leaders for their hard work in reaching out to parishioners. “I hope that it helps everyone—committed, regularly church-going parishioners and also others not as regularly practicing their faith—to gather and see how Christian faith and everyday life come together, with the help of Scripture, some reflection points, and a small group of parishioners meeting one another, some for the first time,” said Father Evans.
The RENEW Process for Spiritual Renewal
RENEW International’s roots were established with the original small Christian communities that sprouted up in the parishes of the Archdiocese of Newark in the late 1970s. Over time, the word of the success of these spiritual renewal efforts spread to other dioceses in the United States and beyond. At its core, RENEW’s processes involve parishes, campuses and other faith communities inviting participants to gather in groups of eight to twelve individuals to pray, read Scripture, reflect together on the meaning of the Gospel in their lives, and commit to action. This approach still works in cities and towns, big and small, near and far.
Highlights of 2007-2008
RENEW in the United States
The Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota reported an excellent experience with RENEW: Spiritual Renewal for the 21st Century as they prepare for their last season this coming fall. Clusters of parishes from California to Florida report much good news also. (more specific) In the RENEW tradition, most groups meet in homes. In one parish a group meets at the home of a man with Alzheimer’s disease and his wife. Although he is limited by the disease, he participates in the measure that he can and knows that he is part of a caring Christian community.
RENEW International’s worldwide renewal efforts have especially strong roots in Central America and Africa going back to the 1980’s. Many of these long-time relationships are bearing new fruit with new vision, new energy, and new leaders.
RENEW continues its efforts in support of the Burundian Peace Initiative. During the past year the first diocese completed the sixth and final training workshop and more than 50 priests participated in our two two-day workshops on Social Analysis at the Service of the Mission in preparation for the upcoming country-wide synod. The diocese of Bururi, which had suspended RENEW activity due to the death of Bishop Bernard Bududira, has reinitiated RENEW training under the new Bishop Bernard Budodoni. The third diocese, Bubanza, will complete the process in 2009. Trainers in Burundi have reported an increase in participation in Basic Ecclesial Communities; many new community projects to address local projects; and an increasing ability for communities to support the process of reconciliation among their members.
In the past year, RENEW has collaborated with South Africans in the designing and delivery of RENEW Africa, an all-new RENEW process which was launched in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth. We are working with local artists, writers, translators, presenters, and printers to create this process rooted on the African continent. Other Catholic dioceses in the country have expressed interest as well as an Anglican community in Port Elizabeth. In addition to the workshops and materials for RENEW Africa which are published in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans for Port Elizabeth, PrayerTime, a companion lectionary-based resource will also be available in all languages. As new dioceses sign on, it is our plan to provide the materials in other languages as needed.
Good News Story
This heartfelt account comes to us from a Parish Core Community member in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth involved in planning for RENEW Africa.
“I received an invitation from the parish priest to serve on the Core Community for my parish, and so I participated in the October introductory workshops. As I left, I felt truly renewed spiritually through the prayer and faith sharing. The following day I received the news that my son had been killed. I couldn’t believe it. I felt totally lost and wondered where God was in all of this. It was the members of my Parish Core Community who gathered around to support me. I was able to draw on the spiritual experience of the workshop, and I have come thought this terrible experience. Now I know the real reason I was invited to join the Parish Core Community, and I can witness how God has led me.”
Outlook for 2009 and Beyond
As ¿Por qué ser católico? continues to be a popular process across the US, the diocese of Valencia, Venezuela recently committed to its implementation in 2010.
We expect that RENEW Africa: Gathered as God’s People will continue to be requested by bishops across English-speaking sub-Saharan Africa because its focus on the establishment of a self-sustaining church responds to the felt needs of the African Church today.
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