St. Thecla Parish Readies for ARISE

Along with having a new pastor, St. Thecla parishioners this fall will be introduced to a new way of looking at their faith through a program called ARISE Together in Christ. The “spiritual renewal” program is being introduced to parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston as part of the church’s 200-year celebration.
The three-year program is divided into two six-week seasons, leading up to Advent and during Lent. Parishioners meet weekly in small community groups to reflect on passages of Scripture that will be discussed the following Sunday.

“The idea is to share our faith in those small groups and to show how God is working in our lives, and then from there to move that out into action, whether it’s actually doing something new or maybe looking at things a little differently,” said Pat O’Donnell, who co-chairs the ARISE parish team with Susan Cooney.

The ARISE program was created by a New Jersey-based group called RENEW International and designed specifically for the Archdiocese of Boston, Cooney said. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley invited each parish in the archdiocese to join in ARISE, following a program that is structured with books and leader training.

St. Thecla, which has about 850 parishioners, decided to participate about a year ago after parishioners looked into the program and presented it to the parish council. Since then, the ARISE team has been training, organizing and looking for people interested in leading small groups. They plan to launch the first six-week season the week of Oct. 5, Cooney said. Since Easter, parishioners have been saying a special ARISE prayer at every Mass in preparation for the first season.

Cooney said the ARISE team’s goal is to involve “as many people as we can. We’re reaching out to everyone, not just people who attend weekly Mass, but trying to bring in people who maybe have been in the parish but have left …”

“People who might just be interested in finding out more about what’s going on. Wherever they are in their spiritual journey, they’re welcome,” O’Donnell added.

The community group concept is new for St. Thecla, O’Donnell said, and involves groups of about six to 12 members who will meet weekly to discuss that week’s topic.

“It’s not a Bible study. It’s just really trying to engage people and get them to focus on the upcoming Sunday’s reading of the Gospel … and see how it affects their lives,” Cooney said. As a mother, Cooney said ARISE provides “good talking points” for discussions with her kids.

“Just like we would in a small group setting, I can do that with the kids before we go to weekend Mass, and hopefully they can listen and have it mean a little bit more,” she said.

O’Donnell said she hopes the program will bring parishioners closer. “For people who participate, it kind of opens their eyes to being more conscious of how God works in our lives. It makes us more comfortable in speaking about God and our spiritual life and sharing that with other people,” she said. “It helps to make us a more welcoming community.”

Finding an hour to 90 minutes a week to meet can be challenging in today’s busy world, but the ARISE team hopes people will be able to commit at least to one six-week season. People are encouraged to participate throughout the three-year program, but it’s not mandatory, Cooney said.

“One nice thing is that it’s a short-term commitment, to kind of put your toe in the water again,” O’Donnell said.

The ARISE launch coincides with another change at St. Thecla — the installation of new pastor the Rev. Joseph McCarthy, who will be officially installed at a 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sept. 21. Longtime pastor the Rev. Robert Sullivan recently resigned his position to give himself time to recuperate from health issues, Cooney said, and McCarthy has been temporary administrator since about May.

Both pastors have lent support to the program along the way, Cooney said. Though ARISE is a lay-led program, it is under the spiritual direction of the pastor.

The St. Thecla parish team will launch the first six-week season of ARISE Together in Christ the week of Oct. 5, with sign-ups scheduled around Sept. 13 and 14 Masses. For more information about ARISE, contact coordinators Pat O’Donnell at 781-294-8146 or Susan Cooney at smcooney@vzw.blackberry.net .

Article courtesy of the Pembroke Express. Written by Becca Manning. Reproduced with permission.

Click to learn more about ARISE Together in Christ.

About RENEW International RENEW International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in Plainfield, NJ, in the Archdiocese of Newark. 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. Since 1980 RENEW International has revitalized parish life in over 150 dioceses in the United States, touching the lives of 25 million people through its renewal processes. RENEW International also reaches many thousands outside the United States, having served people in 23 countries, across six continents and in 44 languages.