In parishes like Holy Family Church in Duxbury, area Catholics are trying to take their faith from the pews into the living room through the ARISE program.
In ARISE, parishioners hold weekly meetings in their homes, small groups of no more than 11-12 people. The idea is to encourage people to foster a more personal relationship with their faith, and the Catholic Church (the program was introduced by Cardinal Sean Oâ€™Malley, head of the Boston Archdiocese, who had success with a similar program when he was in Fall River) is hoping it may help cox some disillusioned Catholics back to the flock.
â€œWe as Catholics donâ€™t talk about our faith,â€ said Holy Familyâ€™s ARISE coordinator Neal Doherty. â€œBut when you do, itâ€™s such a wonderful experience ... People are really reinforced by the discussion.â€
The program has been successful at Holy Family from the get-go, as over 130 people have already signed up through the first two six-week sessions and organizers are hoping for more after another round of signups this weekend.
In ARISE meetings, there is a â€œfacilitator,â€ who leads the group in reading the materials provided by the archdiocese for each session, but there is no real leader. Instead, say participants, there is casual and comfortable group discussion
â€œThrough ARISE youâ€™re opening yourself to others,â€ said Mary Alica Sherman. â€œItâ€™s even strengthened old friendships.â€
â€œIt has made faith more meaningful to me,â€ said Andrea Heinstadt, who is in a discussion group with Sherman. Holy Family had 13 individual groups meeting during the last session.
But the program is about more than talking about faith. Each week, the readings contain an â€œInvitation to Act,â€ which challenges ARISE members to go out into the community. One group at Holy Family spent time at the Pine Street Inn in Boston last year, and another collected blankets to donate to a homeless shelter.
Group members say the format of the groups has led to better sharing.
â€œWe bring different perspectives ... itâ€™s a little more comfortable,â€ said Heinstadt.
â€œItâ€™s more personal,â€ added Sherman. â€œYouâ€™re just more aware on Sunday.â€
For those interested in joining ARISE, anyone is welcome and you can join anytime. There are three more six-week sessions, this fall, and then spring and fall of next year. Holy Family is holding a parish picnic this weekend, and there will be a signup table. Otherwise, those interested in participating can call the parish office at 781-934-5055 or Neal Doherty at 781-934-2580.