Branching-Out

Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min.

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Live Lent: Things NOT TO DO

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Feb 24, 2020 6:00:57 AM
On each Monday in February, we will share some thoughts from Sr. Terry
about preparing for and really experiencing Lent,
which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26.
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Live Lent: Things TO DO

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Feb 17, 2020 6:00:04 AM
On each Monday in February, we will share some thoughts from Sr. Terry
about preparing for and really experiencing Lent,
which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26.
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Live Lent: Begin With a Plan

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Feb 10, 2020 6:00:58 AM
On each Monday in February, we will share some thoughts from Sr. Terry
about preparing for and really experiencing Lent,
which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26.
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Live Lent: A Forty-Day Challenge

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Feb 3, 2020 6:00:44 AM
On each Monday in February, we will share some thoughts from Sr. Terry
about preparing for and really experiencing Lent,
which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26.
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Young people can attract others to the Church

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Jul 31, 2019 3:00:04 PM
The word of the Lord came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord God!” I said,
“I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”
But the Lord answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jeremiah 1:4-10
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Healing Our Church

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Mar 28, 2019 7:57:07 AM

The Pennsylvania grand-jury report in the summer of 2018 and the allegations against former Cardinal McCarrick reopened the wounds of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis and coverup. As I read the detail of the crimes committed against the most vulnerable, I experienced anger, disillusionment, and shame. I wanted to distance myself from it all.
 
As I began to listen to the anger and pain of everyday Catholics while facilitating parish listening sessions, buying groceries in the neighborhood, and attending family gatherings, I knew I had to do something. As I worked through my anger, the Holy Spirit slowly brought me to the truth that I needed to be part of reforming and rebuilding the Church—this Church that I love and that formed me in my faith. I needed to act for the sake of the majority of the faithful lay women and men, clergy, and religious who follow the way of Jesus—these faith-filled Catholics who celebrate the sacraments, pray daily, and are committed to charitable works and just acts. My co-workers at RENEW felt the same way. We needed to do our part to heal our Church.
 
I am inspired by a statement by theologian Karl Rahner: “I acknowledge that the Church has caused me much grief, but it is a heaviness I am not willing to put down. I will carry it until it is transformed into life, and the burden becomes light.”
 
We at RENEW recommit ourselves “to carry the Church until it is transformed into life.” With this in our hearts and minds, we developed Healing Our Church and its Spanish counterpart, Sanando Nuestra Iglesia, primarily for “people in the pews”—to face the truth, rebuild the Church, and find a way forward together as a family of faith.
 
Healing Our Church and Sanando Nuestra Iglesia are small-group processes that include prayer, stories of victim-survivors, reflections on Scripture and the sexual-abuse crisis, and faith sharing—all leading to action. The suggested action steps are small and doable and are directed mostly at the local level where effective global action often begins.
 
Developing these small-group resources has been a work of love and a myriad of people— RENEW staff members and advisors—worked unceasingly over the several months to get them ready for Lent 2019. I am grateful to all of them.
 
I am especially grateful to Bishop Alfred Schlert of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, for pushing us to get this done because he felt strongly, “My people need healing now.”
 
I am convinced the treatment needed to heal our wounded Church is truth, compassion, transparency, accountability, and prayer. And it will take all of us—empowered lay women and men, priests, deacons, religious, and bishops, working together—to heal and transform our Church.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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The God of Hope Comes Even in the Darkness

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Dec 19, 2018 12:12:13 PM

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9–11
 
Fr. Joseph Healy, a Maryknoll missioner, tells this story in his book, Once Upon a Time in Africa.
 
It was the night before Christmas in Africa, and an eight-year-old-boy from Ghana was devastated because his village had been destroyed by the so-called army of liberation. He felt none of the usual joy and anticipation of the season. His parents had been killed, and many of his friends were kidnapped and never returned.
 
In years past, Christmas in his village had always been a joyous festival with music, houses decorated with paper ornaments created by the children, roads filled with people visiting friends and relatives, and plentiful food and drink. The little boy wondered how Christmas could come without his parents and his village. How could he celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace since he had not known any peace, only war and suffering?
 
As the boy continued to think about Christmases past and about the present suffering, he heard the horn of a car. It was a group of travelers who had taken a detour through his village, because the bridge over the river had been destroyed. They said it was Christmas Eve, and they were on their way to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. They shared their food with the villagers and helped build a fire in the marketplace to keep the people warm.
 
The young boy’s oldest sister was pregnant. She was still in shock and had not spoken since she and her brother escaped the soldiers. She went into labor, and villagers and visitors removed their shirts to make a bed for her next to the fire. She gave birth to a beautiful boy. War or no war, they danced and sang Christmas carols until dawn. When the young mother was asked what she would name the baby, she spoke for the first time since the village had been destroyed. She said, “His name is Gye Nyame,” which means “except God I fear none.” And they celebrated Christmas that night. Christmas had come, in the midst of their suffering and despair, with the birth of the boy’s nephew. This was their hope. Christmas always comes—despite all circumstances. Christ is among us and continues to come into our darkest moments to bring light and hope to our wounded hearts and broken world.
 
Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas season and a year filled with the hope of Christ!
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Life Begins at Forty for RENEW

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Sep 4, 2018 7:00:13 AM

Life Begins at Forty was a 1932 bestselling self-help book by Walter B. Pitkin. It was very popular and influential. Although Pitkin did not coin the phrase “life begins at forty,” the success of his book put it into general circulation, so much so that after 1932 it became an American catchphrase for the remainder of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. There have been movies, songs, and two television series and several books that bear the same title.
 
I would like to claim that phrase for RENEW—the life of RENEW is beginning anew on this, our 40th anniversary. RENEW International is entering its fifth decade on mission for the Church and the world. And we believe life has just begun. During this year, we certainly are celebrating our founding and the many blessings God has poured forth on the Church through the work of RENEW, but we believe the best is yet to come. God is always doing something new.
 
For RENEW this milestone is about more than history; it is the impetus for us to look “Forward at Forty,” and that has been the motto of our observances. Our anniversary coincides with a critical period for the Catholic Church. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that a high percentage of millennials (ages 22-37) describe themselves as religious “nones” (atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular”). Today, more than 50 percent of those raised in Catholic households no longer identify as Catholics when they reach adulthood. Many factors have contributed to this reality, and the recent eruption in the sexual-abuse scandals has only contributed to people’s disengagement with the Church. We are poised to address these issues and, through our resources and programs, invite people of all ages to a renewed faith and energy to transform the Church for the sake of the world.
 
We began our anniversary celebration at the fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. We continued in April with a Symposium on Pastoral Renewal that drew more than 200 lay men and women, clergy, and religious to Seton Hall University to hear presentations by national leaders in the field. The symposium was named to honor our co-founders—Monsignors Thomas A. Kleissler and Thomas Ivory, both of whom attended.
 
In September, we will mark the anniversary with a pilgrimage to important religious sites in Italy. And on November 4, we will conclude our celebration with a Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Park Ridge, New Jersey, where Monsignor Thomas A. Kleissler, our longtime director, began his priestly ministry. Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnston will be the principal celebrant.
 
We invite you to come to this Mass of Thanksgiving and to join us at the reception that will immediately follow. With you at our side, we know that as we move “Forward at Forty” we will have even more to celebrate in the years ahead.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Symposium marks the start of RENEW’s next 40 years

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on May 8, 2018 7:00:44 AM

The keystone of our yearlong celebration of RENEW International’s 40th anniversary was the Monsignors Thomas Kleissler and Thomas Ivory Symposium on Parish Renewal held on Thursday, April 19 at Seton Hall University.
 
The symposium was named to honor the two dedicated priests who founded RENEW through a deep faith commitment, a willingness to take a risk, and holy innovation. We at RENEW are determined to continue their legacy of parish renewal and revitalization in today’s cultural context.
 
I was so moved when I entered the large conference room and saw it not only brimming with a variety of people—priests, deacons, pastoral staff and lay leaders—but also with energy and enthusiasm. It was so hopeful!
 
Chris Lowney, one of our speakers, talked about the grim facts of the decline of church membership, not to keep us stuck in the muck of despair, but to awaken us to reality so that we commit ourselves to change. The metaphor of the “burning platform” is often used in business to illustrate the commitment needed for organizational change. When we recognize that the “platform is burning” it can engender greater commitment to jump into change. Transforming and revitalizing our parishes becomes not a good thing to do but a matter critical to the faith of the next generation. We have no choice. The risk of maintaining the status quo is way too high—the irrelevancy of the Catholic parish in the United States.
 
The day began with prayer and song and then moved to the keynote by Bill Simon, author of Great Catholic Parishes, who set the framework for the day. He spoke of the four foundational practices for a thriving parish: great parishes share leadership, great parishes foster spirituality and plan for discipleship, great parishes excel on Sunday, and great parishes evangelize. Bill’s talk was followed by presentations by four panelists, each addressing one of the foundational practices.
 
Chris Lowney, author of Everyone Leads, called us to be leaders and innovators. I spoke on the power of small groups to deepen faith and discipleship. Fr. Bismark Chau, pastor of a multi-cultural parish in Newark, New Jersey, exhorted us to open the doors of the church and make Sundays a spirit-filled experience through relevant homilies, good music, and warm hospitality. Leisa Anslinger, director of Catholic Life and Faith, addressed how to intentionally evangelize young people, taking her cue from a study called Growing the Church Young, a study by the Fuller Youth Institute. Leisa explored two of the “six essential strategies” identified in the study: empathizing—that is, seeing the world from the viewpoint of young people, and making young people a top priority.
 
Throughout the day, the participants shared faith, hopes, ideas, and action plans to make their parishes great.
 
The day concluded with Evening Prayer. The Easter music lifted our spirits, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin’s homily inspired us to look to the future with faith and a renewed vision. In his homily, Cardinal Tobin connected his reflections on the Scripture to Fr. Tom Ivory and Fr. Tom Kleissler as leaders who were a step ahead. The cardinal presented each of them with two gifts. The first one was an apostolic blessing from Pope Francis; the second was a framed personal note from him—a note he signed, “your brother Joseph.” Cardinal Tobin is a giant of a man and to see him kneeling before Fr. Tom Kleissler, frail but still with a giant spirit, was an overwhelming moment for me.
 
Fr. Tom Kleissler often reminds me that while RENEW has had a great impact on the Church, what is important now is what great things RENEW can do to transform the Church for the future. So look ahead to the next new innovative parish resource RENEW is developing to reach out to young people, because we are moving Forward at Forty!
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Mid-Lent Call: Get Back on the Way

Posted by Sr. Terry Rickard, O.P., D.Min. on Mar 12, 2018 11:14:01 AM

I recently spoke on a Friday night at a parish Stations of the Cross. The title of the Lenten series is “The Way Walkers.” I love the image of being a “way walker”—one who walks in the Way of Jesus.
 
St. Paul, before his conversion, took prisoners who “belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:2; 22:4). During Paul’s trial before Felix, a Roman procurator, Paul said, “I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect” (Acts 24:14). Early Christianity was not a new religion but a movement within Judaism—a movement that embraced Jesus as the Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
 
Wherever the early missionaries traveled, they formed small communities of believers in the Way. It was a movement that emphasized Jesus’ call to unconditional love and forgiveness and his suffering, death, and resurrection as the path to transformation. Jesus is the Son of God, but he is also “the Way”—the way of the cross which not only led Jesus from suffering and death to new life but also leads each one of us who have said yes to the Way.
 
Pope Francis, in one of his reflections on Lent, says, “Lent is a time when Christians are asked to return to God with all their hearts, to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord.” A way walker is on the path to deeper friendship with the Lord. So, if you are not growing in friendship with the Lord this Lent and have wavered from your Lenten plan, it is time to get back on the Way.
 
I offer you three ways to get back on the Way:
 

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