The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, with the approval of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, has joined forces with RENEW International to introduce a new initiative — ARISE Together in Christ — focused on spiritual renewal and evangelization for faith seekers in the diocese.
ARISE Together in Christ offers a “three-year parish centered process of spiritual renewal, evangelization and adult formation that enables members to develop a closer relationship with Christ, grow in community and reach out in service to others.”
Natalie Kohrman, director of the Office of Evangelization, says the process will focus on establishing small Christian communities of eight to 12 members each who will meet regularly to read and reflect on Scripture and Church teaching, share how it relates in their personal lives and encourage active service and discipleship. The effort she hopes will stimulate “active and continual parish renewal.”
The difference the Catholic community will see in comparison to other faith-sharing programs, such as Disciples in Mission, she says, is “that ARISE will focus on topics of five seasons.”
The seasons Kohrman refers to indicate the five distinct six-week sessions that the process offers. They include “Encountering Christ Today,” “Change Our Hearts,” “In the Footsteps of Christ,” “New Hearts, New Spirit,” and “We Are the Good News!” The first of the five seasons will begin in September of this year, following information gathering meetings already underway and training for facilitators of the small Christian communities to be developed. Each season offers materials that will guide the faith-sharing group through various styles of prayer, Scripture reading, reflection, faith sharing, creative action and socialization.
The dynamic process is designed to begin in the fall with session one, followed by session two that will lead the participants through Lent. Each of the two subsequent years will follow the same time sequence, with sessions three and four the second year, and session five completed in the fall of the third year. (Calendar year: Season I — fall 2012, Seasons 2 and 3 — Lent and fall 2013, Seasons 4 and 5 — Lent and fall 2014.)
Kohrman says ARISE is designed to appeal to “various people and ages,” and adds, “It is available in Spanish and Vietnamese” and in several other languages with a large-print edition for the visually impaired.
ARISE small Christian communities will meet regularly in homes, parishes, youth groups and on college campuses, says Kohrman. Facilitators will be provided with seasonal information to prepare for each session utilizing the well-organized materials and available training. In addition to ongoing support and online resources, the RENEW International organization will provide specific training workshops for facilitators and parish leaders for each season. “Renew,” says Kohrman, “is with us every step of the way.”
According to the RENEW website, “RENEW International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in Plainfield, N.J., in the Archdiocese of Newark. RENEW International has more than 30 years of experience revitalizing parish life and 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.”
The establishment of the small Christian communities of ARISE appropriately follows on the heels of the diocesan-wide Catholic Come Home campaign, which has brought many non-practicing Catholics back into the Church family.
“It’s a logical conclusion to invite people to be part of ARISE and to continue their own faith formation,” says Kohrman.
Though the diocese is aware that there exists previously established, year-round small Christian communities, the ARISE process has been adopted not to dissolve those existing communities but to ensure that all parishes, particularly the smaller ones, have an equal opportunity to establish their own small Christian communities.
“It will be a more concerted effort across parishes,” says Kohrman.
In addition to the intriguing opportunity to grow deeper in faith, ARISE is designed to benefit all who participate.
Kohrman reports, “This is a regular parish initiative, but you can invite non-Catholics too. The catechetical elements are Catholic, but the faith-sharing aspect can be beneficial to anyone. It would be a great way to evangelize in a non-threatening way.”