RENEW, Why Catholic? and the Military

Sr. Maureen Colleary, FSP

RENEW International fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action. This is the mission statement of the organization that I have been privileged to minister with for the past fourteen years. I am a member of the Pastoral Services Team at RENEW and am committed to collaborating with military communities, parishes, dioceses, and campuses around the world to help them revitalize the faith of their people through processes of evangelization, spiritual renewal and adult faith formation.

One of the processes is entitled Why Catholic? Journey through the Catechism and it challenges participants to see the world through a Catholic lens. From the first book on Christian prayer through explorations of the creed, the sacraments, morality and Catholic Social Teaching everything about this process is designed to bring the teachings of our faith into focus. With the eyes of the heart enlightened, participants are able to clearly see the opportunities to live a richer, more authentic Christian life: praying more deeply, participating in the sacramental life of the Church, sharing their faith with family and friends, reaching out to those in need, making faith-filled decisions in daily life.

Sr. Maureen with a Why Catholic?
faith sharing community in South Korea.
Sr. Maureen with the military in Hawaii.

I have been honored to bring this process to members of Catholic communities on military bases and installations around the world since January of 2006. RENEW serves all branches of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines. Since I could never travel to every base/installation, I do a “Training of Trainers” – inviting lay leaders and their chaplains to attend a weekend of workshops pertaining to a specific book within the Why Catholic? series. They receive information, training and strategies about how to promote and implement the Why Catholic? process.

We do two weekends in a year covering the four books in a two year period. For bases in the continental United States, we meet at the Naval Base in San Diego. I have completed the two year cycle in the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Hawaii. We are currently just beginning a new round of trainings at Wiesbaden in Germany. To date we have touched over 40 different military communities. I work closely with the auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, Joseph Estabrook and Rick Spencer who support the process and when possible, help me present during the training weekends.

Some tangible results that have been witnessed are a growth in the number and variation of lay involvements within the military communities. Many share that the process is helping their communities evangelize better and become more involved in living out their faith. The faith sharing and action oriented responses based on Scripture and the sound theological input of Why Catholic? have truly renewed and enhanced the lives of the members of the military Catholic communities.

A quote from a recent weekend sums it all up: “Before Why Catholic? life was good, after Why Catholic? life is very good!”

Sr. Maureen, a Council member on the Leadership Team of the Franciscan Sister of Peace of Haverstraw, NY authored this article for their newsletter, "Peacemaking ... Our Journey." She has been at RENEW International since 1997 and is currently involved not only with Why Catholic? but with ARISE Together in Christ and is the Program Manager for Longing for the Holy.