RENEW International - Home   RENEW International - Blog   RENEW International - Shop   RENEW International - Donate   RENEW International - Request Info


Have you shopped for groceries during the pandemic? At least in New Jersey, the experience goes something like this: Carefully devise your grocery list to avoid a return trip for as long as possible, drive-off and then turn around because you forgot your mask, and finally arrive at the grocery store. You hope to get in and out quickly, but your expectations are dashed.
The line. The long line. Seventy-five or so people pushing empty carts, snaking around the store, all six feet apart. I wouldn’t have minded the 40-minute wait to get in the store nearly so much had I worn more than a t-shirt and light fleece on the blustery 41-degree day.
I was reminded of my grocery store experiences when I recently interviewed author Chris Lowney and Sister Terry Rickard for a RENEW International webinar: Becoming the ‘Saint Next Door’ During the Pandemic: Lessons on Everyday Holiness from Pope Francis. I asked Chris how he was practicing “everyday holiness” during the pandemic, and he replied, “I was waiting 45 minutes to get into the grocery store, texting my wife about how annoyed I was. She texted back, ‘Why don’t you use the time to pray the rosary for those most affected by the pandemic?’’’ Embarrassed over his annoyance, he took up his wife’s suggestion. For Chris, waiting in queue outside the grocery store and everyday holiness met.
Starting on April 30, RENEW International will offer six-week online faith-sharing groups on answering the call to everyday holiness during the pandemic. We will use Chris Lowney’s insightful and easy-to-follow book, What, Me Holy? as a guide. In his book, Chris shares how we may associate “holiness” only with saints (and therefore it is unattainable for us) or with overly pious types. Not so, says Chris. Holiness is for all of us, and it’s not necessarily about heroic actions or pious behavior. Instead of “not sweating the small stuff,” everyday holiness is about “sweating the small stuff” and paying attention to details:

“What details might pave your or my path to holiness? Maybe, for example, the detail of noticing my spouse who came home discouraged today, or the elderly woman who always sits alone and unspoken to in church, or the homeless person who has shoes but no socks, or the fact that I’ve skipped my five minutes of personal prayer two days in a row.”

We invite you to join a RENEW International online faith-sharing group for an uplifting experience, reflecting on our call to “everyday holiness” during the pandemic. Self-quarantining at home is not an obstacle but an opportunity. Don’t miss this one!
Paul Krenzelok is a member of the RENEW International staff with extensive leadership experience as a faith formation professional and pastoral minister.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


scripture_groupRENEW has been creating small-group materials for nearly forty years and, during that time, one of the constants has been placing scripture readings at the core of every session. Open any RENEW resource, on any topic, and there in the session you will find the instructions to read a specific passage from scripture.
Why do we do this? We do it because sacred Scripture is the inspired word of God and contains everything we know about Jesus. His very words are there for us to read. It is the source and foundation of our faith.
Your small group can gain a great deal from making scripture central to what you do. There are simple things which will help you get the most from those readings. At the end of your session, ask for a volunteer, or assign a reader for the next week. Ask them to read the passage ahead of time and practice it. That will allow them to read with both ease and conviction.
Encourage your small group to read the daily readings. You can find them easily with an app for the missal on your phone or tablet, or by going to the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website where you can also sign up to have the readings sent to you via email every day.
Taking the time to make Scripture a part of your daily life is yet another way to bring your small group together through shared experience. Delving deeper into the Gospels beyond the Sunday readings will give you a more complete understanding of Jesus, bringing you closer to him.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


bateyWhen we think of forming small groups, we tend to stick to the familiar. Maybe there is a parish-wide effort, or maybe there are friends who are already part of your faith circle with whom you feel comfortable that you invite to participate in your faith-sharing group.
Those are good starting points, but are they enough?
In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis challenges us to challenge ourselves and turn our churches into centers of missionary outreach. Our small groups should be part of that effort, and we should learn to think outside of our own comfort zone. We know the incredible power of working within our small groups. Why not share that power with others?
RENEW International is doing the same. We are stepping out of our own comfort zone to bring the Gospel and our small-group process to places we have never been before. Through the generosity of committed donors, Sister Terry, Father Alejandro López-Cardinale, and Manuel Hernandez this year traveled to the Dominican Republic to start working with marginalized people of Haitian descent living there. They are engaged in LEVÁNTATE. Unánomos en Cristo (ARISE Together in Christ) in the batey, the communities of migrant workers that formed around the sugar plantations.
While there have been many challenges, this has been a joy-filled experience for everyone involved. We know that the light of the Gospel will shine in the hearts of the people we touch and we will learn so much from them.
Where can your small group reach out to the marginalized? How can your small group become its own microcosm of a larger evangelizing Church? While you may not be able to travel to another country as RENEW has, you may be able to reach into places you have never been before.
This is the challenge the Gospel puts before us. When you think it is beyond you, keep in your heart the words of Pope Francis: “An authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The_Way_of_the_CrossAs we enter the holy season of Lent the Church calls us to prepare our hearts for the celebration of our redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We come together as Church in special ways as a reminder that this is a time set apart.
Lent presents wonderful opportunities to deepen the bonds among the members of our small groups. If your church regularly gathers for Stations of the Cross, participating as a group can be a deeply moving experience as you share Christ’s journey to Calvary. You might participate in a parish-wide reconciliation service or come together as a group before or after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.
Rice Bowl is a program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services for Lent. It combines prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, three things we are called to do during this season. You can participate in Rice Bowl as a group. There are daily prayers and recipes for meatless meals you can prepare together and share. There is even an app to make it easier to participate. You can then make a group donation to support the work of CRS.
If your parish does not already have any of these services, your group could help organize them, sharing your own spiritual renewal with your fellow parishioners. Whatever you do, do it together, and allow this sharing to bring you closer to each other as a spiritual community.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Small_GroupAs the fall faith-sharing season draws to a close, we hope that it has been a time filled with spiritual growth and renewal for you. This is a time to come together to celebrate the season in its fullness—challenges and triumphs both.
Take the time to look back and evaluate the season. Sowing Seeds, RENEW International’s resource book for small groups, provides evaluation questions for both community members and group leaders; these questions will help you take a deeper look at what the season has meant to all of you and help you understand how much you have accomplished.
Once you have evaluated those accomplishments, it is time to celebrate them! Whether you celebrate as a parish or as individual groups, you want to come together and share your joy at what the season has meant for all of you, and we want to share your joy!
Take photos or videos and send them to your pastoral representative along with your good-news stories. Sharing your accomplishments in this way is a powerful means of witness. When we share your stories with others they see the transformative power of working in small groups. Your photo, video, or good-news story could provide the tipping point for someone on the fence about whether or not to join a small group.
Think about what your small-group experience has meant for you. Would you like others to have that same experience? By sharing your experience you can help us reach more people yearning to feel the presence of God in their lives.
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Thérèse-LisieuxEarlier this month we celebrated the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower. She is a wonderful role model for all of us, but in many ways she speaks to the heart of small Christian communities in this regard: It is not always necessary to do great things, but to always do small things with great love.
As you work with your small group many tasks will arise. These will range from the larger job of actually running the group to the small, simple things sometimes taken for granted, such as having your meeting room prepared. It helps a leader to remember St. Thérèse’s philosophy and approach these tasks, and those who accomplish them, with great love.
While we hope to grow and change as we participate in our small groups, we all bring specific gifts to them at the outset. Recognizing those gifts in others and asking them to do tasks in keeping with those gifts, plays to their strengths and allows members to thrive and feel that they are making a contribution. For example, the parent who seems to know every other family in the parish is a natural choice for a group leader. The parishioner with the sunny nature and welcoming smile is a natural recruiter for bringing in new members.
When you ask participants to take on various tasks, tell them why. Affirm their gifts, and explain how those gifts are useful to the greater purpose. By naming and identifying the gifts of your small-community members you make each person feel valued and appreciated for who he or she is. It is a small thing to do, but when we do it with great love it is a powerful motivator. As you move forward and members want to take on new roles, be sensitive to the desire for change and encouraging as they explore new gifts.
When we follow the example of St. Thérèse and approach this small affirmation with great love, our small groups will grow and flourish.
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Does the thought of spontaneous prayer terrify you? The leader of a small group may at times want or find it necessary to offer a spontaneous prayer, perhaps to open or close the prayer portion of a session or to open or close the meeting itself. A practice that can make this experience go smoothly involves remembering four words that represent familiar elements in prayer. The words are “you,” “who,” “do,” and “through.”
You: We begin many of our prayers by addressing and praising God with titles such as “Almighty God,” “Ever-living God,” “Heavenly Father,” “Creator God.” If the prayer is addressed to the second person of the Holy Trinity, we often say such things as “Lord Jesus Christ.”
Who: After calling God by name, we acknowledge what God has done for the world and for us. This could include such statements as “who created the world and all that is in it,” “who give us grace through the sacraments,” “who gave your only begotten Son that we might live,” or “who gather us here to build your kingdom on earth.”
Do: We ask God to do something for us, for other individuals, for our parish or community, or for the world at large. We might ask God, for example, to “help us to be witnesses to your Gospel wherever we go,” “help us create a parish that is welcoming to strangers,” or “help us to set an example by caring for the world you created.”
Through: When we address our prayer to “God” or to “the Father,” we always pray through Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.
And so, for example, a person who is invited to offer an opening prayer at a meeting of a parish council, might say, “(You) Almighty God, (Who) whose Son draws people to you through the holy Church, (Do) help us to be good stewards of this parish and to serve well those who worship here. Help us to act always in the spirit of your commandment of love.
(Through) We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”
From Leading Prayer in Small Groups, published by RENEW International.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


leading-prayer-in-small-groupsYou are a leader of prayer, and that’s something to ponder and celebrate. This is not everyone’s task or gift, but it is yours. What sets the prayer leader apart? You are welcoming, you are fully present, you project a calm confidence, and you create the atmosphere and set the tone for the gathering.
Can you appreciate the grace and gift that is yours in this opportunity? Can you enjoy the role and responsibility, too? Do you know that none of this is accidental? It’s all about you and God—your unique and special relationship and how this relationship is lived out in the way you lead your faith-
sharing group in prayer.
When you can celebrate who you are and how leading prayer is an expression of the love you and God have for each other and the gifts and talents God has generously given you, you can extend the opportunity for leading prayer to others whose gifts you can nurture.
You will see in others what they see in you—reverence, confidence, competence, attentiveness to the group’s needs, ease of manner, and a well-groomed appearance.
From your vantage point as a leader of prayer, consider the following steps:

  • Let your small group know that you are looking for future prayer leaders because the present leaders may not always be available and because the ministry belongs to all baptized Christians. Encourage volunteers to approach you.
  • Observe the group closely to identify those who are particularly prayerful and reliable. Begin a conversation with this person to determine if he or she is interested in a leader’s role.
  • Spend time explaining the process to your candidates and assure them of your continuing help.
  • Schedule time with your candidates to share your techniques and experiences, to help them get comfortable with the process, and to practice.
  • Use one of your group’s meetings as an opportunity for your candidates to lead or read parts of the session. Let the whole group know what you are doing and why.
  • Invite each candidate to assist you in preparing a group meeting.
  • Allow each candidate to conduct a session while you observe only as a member of the group. Plan the dates with each candidate well in advance.
  • Meet privately with each candidate after he or she has led a session, listen to the candidate’s reaction to the experience and give your own feedback—always being as positive and encouraging as possible.
  • Encourage the candidates to lead more than one session so that they can become more comfortable with the role.

May God’s grace help you to see and nurture in others the gifts he has bestowed on you and, through your encouragement, provide the Church with new leadership.
Based on Leading Prayer in Small Groups, Chapters 2 and 9

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


small_groupAt the end of the Lenten faith-sharing season we invite you to take time to reflect on and evaluate your small group’s experience this past season in the context of the Paschal Mystery—the life, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus. Christ lived, died, rose from the dead, and returned in glory to his Father—not just for himself but for all. In this mystery he overcame death and gained eternal life on our behalf. We celebrate the Paschal Mystery in the sacraments, and we experience it ourselves when we relate to Christ our own sufferings and joys, the deaths and new births that are a part of life.
The end of the faith-sharing season is not a time to grade yourself or your group. Rather, it is a time to consider how God is at work in your ministry as a small-community leader, in the lives of the individual participants of your community, and through your community as a whole.
Here are some questions to aid your reflection on the Paschal Mystery and your small group:

  • What were the blessings that participants in your group shared? What were the group’s blessings?
  • How has the Spirit led and moved in the sharing among the members?
  • What challenges did participants in the group face? How was God at work in dealing with these challenges?
  • In what ways did your group, or members of your group, experience the Paschal Mystery—the life, suffering, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Were there illnesses, deaths, new births, or reconciliations?
  • How did group members put their faith into action? Group members may not recognize the impact of seemingly small actions such as sending a card, visiting someone in the hospital, or some other type of outreach. Don’t diminish or neglect to name such efforts. If the action was taken with love, then it matters—especially to the recipient.
  • In what ways were group members drawn closer to God and his Church?

The leader’s role is to lift up and celebrate how God is acting in the participants’ lives and in the community as a whole. Take the time to reflect, name, and savor the goodness of God as experienced in the community, and celebrate God’s presence in your group.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


StorytellingEmbracing the reign of God, facing the challenge of conversion, and embarking on our spiritual journeys are frequently made possible through the storytelling that takes place in small communities.
When men and women share faith stories, and their parish respects and values these stories, both the individuals and the parish community grow deeper in their faith life. In the large parish, there is often nowhere to tell the stories of our faith journeys; yet, it is clear that telling our stories, and listening to others’ stories, are valuable aids to interpreting the meaning of our lives.
As we look at the concept of story in relationship to small Christian communities, we note certain elements:

  • The Gospels are narratives, the stories of Jesus as remembered by members of the early Christian communities. Every time small communities read the Gospel they are reviewing the story of Jesus and reflecting on how it intersects with their lives.
  • When we share our faith stories, we are telling—and perhaps hearing for the first time—how God is acting in our lives. It is often in the telling itself that we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. This helps others believe in the God who is really at work in us.
  • As we hear others talk about their lives we realize how God is present and acting in their lives.
    Not only do we hear the narrative of Jesus’ life but we also start to apply the Word to our lives today.

  • As we listen to one another we have a sense of the Spirit acting in the community.

In all of these aspects we are trusting in Jesus’ words: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:20).
We trust that Jesus is present and that his story is being retold and applied to our lives. We might call this an immanent experience of God. Yet in the sharing of Scripture and of life experiences, there is also a profound search for God—for the answer to the question, “Who is God?” The search that takes place in small Christian communities can lead to an experience of the transcendent God who dwells in mystery.
Telling our faith stories, or faith sharing, is recalling a time, a life event, a situation, a word, a moment of grace when God touched our lives, challenged us, or spoke to us. God speaks to us in various ways: through the silence of our hearts; through the Word of God; through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; through the presence, words or actions of another; or through nature.
Why do we share faith? We share faith in order to

  • recognize and take ownership of how God is acting in our lives
  • reveal to others how God is at work in our lives, our world
  • welcome and encourage the faith of others
  • witness to divine mystery
  • build up another
  • lead us to conversion of heart

Faith sharing helps us to make connections with others and allows us to see and hear how sacred our lives are and how precious all life is. Our spirits are touched by someone else’s story and this builds up our faith, hope, and love.
Adapted from Small Christian Communities: A Vision of Hope for the 21st Century, © 1997, RENEW International.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Advent_WreathOur liturgical seasons are marked by symbols and colors and actions and events to be remembered and celebrated. As we gather to share faith in our small communities, let us mark this season of preparation with images to remind us of who we are and what we are about.
The Advent wreath reminds us that this is the opening season of the liturgical year. We are waiting for and anticipating the coming of Christ at Christmas. Advent is a time for “waiting in joyful hope” for the coming of our Savior. We are making a journey, and we mark it by lighting a candle each week until all four are lit.
The Advent wreath offers liturgical colors and lights, none chosen by accident. Evergreens remind us of everlasting life, and each candle represents one of the weeks of Advent. Three candles are purple, the liturgical color of the season, and one is rose/pink for the third week of Advent as a sign of hope and joy that Christ’s coming is indeed near.
We may be preparing the readings of the coming Sunday or using a Lectionary-based small-group resource such as PrayerTime or Advent Awakenings. We may also use our Bible (readings are often listed in the parish bulletin or can be found online at or a missalette.
The Advent wreath is a visual reminder of the great gift of life given to us in the birth of Christ to be celebrated at Christmas.
Consider using this Advent wreath blessing in your small group.
May you enjoy the Advent journey with joyful anticipation and celebrate the signs and symbols of this blessed season.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


SCC_PrayerBeing creative with the opening and closing prayer can help participants grow by experiencing a variety of prayer forms. Familiar prayers can be reassuring, and they should be a part of the group’s overall experience, but sharing new words and forms can capture the participants’ attention, help them appreciate prayer as a conversation with God, and deepen their understanding of their place as members of the Body of Christ.
Here is an example of an opening prayer that includes quieting down:
Begin the meeting as usual. When you arrive at the moment of opening prayer, invite everyone to close their eyes, take three breaths—inhaling and then slowly exhaling. Then say:

I invite you to remember all those who have blessed you by sharing faith
with you.
Think back through your life . . .
Who inspired and blessed you as an infant and in your early childhood….Who comes to mind during your elementary school years….Consider now those who inspired you as a pre-teen, teenager, young adult, when you were in your 20s and early 30s…in middle age…in your wisdom years.
Take a moment and, as we remember All Saints and All Souls, celebrate those people, living or deceased, who have been part of your faith journey and offer a silent prayer of gratitude.

Allow for thirty seconds of silence, and then lead the group in praying the “Glory be.”
A companion closing prayer may be offered:
Let us pray now for those who have asked for our prayers or those for whom you have promised to pray:
Allow thirty seconds of silence and begin:
I invite you to pray aloud or in silence…

For family and friends (pause)
     we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.
For the sick (pause)
     we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.
For those in the headlines (pause)
     we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.
For those affected by natural disasters (pause)
     we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.
For the hungry, abused, and abandoned (pause)
     we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.
For world peace (pause)
     we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.

And we close with the prayer Jesus gave us…Our Father

Feel free to vary these according to the group’s need and the season of the church year. There are many sources of prayers, including the Prayers and Devotions on the web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
May you enjoy God’s attentive listening and God’s presence in one another.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


ListeningHave you ever been talking and wondered if the other person was listening? It’s often not hard to tell: there is no direct eye contact or the arms are folded over. There’s also the absence of interjections—“uh-huh,” “yes,”—and when the opportunity for laughter in response to something silly and disconnected is met with dead silence, you know the other is not listening.
Listening is a skill and one that can be developed. Much of what is needed is “getting out of the way” and letting the other person have your undivided attention. For some of us, this is a challenge, especially when the voice, topic, or person speaking is not our cup of tea.
However, if we want to be respectful there are things we can do to listen better. In taking these steps, we may be surprised at how engaged we can be and what we can both give and gain from listening.
Time is at the top of the list. Make sure the time is right; if it’s not, make the time or plan for another time to connect.
Consider these questions:

  • Have you ever been on the phone when the person you’re speaking to starts talking to someone else?
  • Have you ever tried to share a meaningful experience with someone who is multi-tasking while “listening” to you?
  • Have you ever been interrupted while telling a story by someone who finishes it for you?

These are all examples of when “the time is not right.”
Concentrate on the experience of the person who is speaking. Though you may have had a similar experience, remember that “similar” is not “same.” Listen for what was different; listen for the feelings the speaker is expressing; pay attention to the tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. Your focus should be on the other. With practice, you will find that you can find a way to be engaged.
Speak to express your interest, affirm, or paraphrase what’s been said. Ask questions for clarification, and absolutely offer eye contact.
Effective listening is a precious gift. Many of us are not looking for advice but instead for someone willing to share in our stories, our lives, our joys, or our struggles. We want to be known, even in small ways. It’s human to want to connect.
May your connections—those you give and those given to you, be they one-on-one or in a small group—be rooted in the conviction that every child of God is worthy of our attention. May you regard the gift of listening as a precious and valued treasure.
From Sowing Seeds: Essentials for Small Community Leaders, based on On Listening to Another by Douglas V. Steere

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Are you a good listener? Do you recognize a good listener when you are speaking? What qualities and characteristics come to mind when you think about good listeners? See if these four are also on your list.
Vulnerability invites each of us to reflect on this question: How do I measure my ability to expose my mind and heart to another’s thoughts and experience?
This characteristic of a good listener, vulnerability, speaks of an openness to what is being said, so much so that you as listener may experience discomfort due to unexpected aspects of the sharing. Being a good listener may also expose you to the pain, complexity, and frustration of the human condition. There are no preconceived ideas here.
Acceptance moves each of us to ask: Do others have to fit into my way of being and doing?
This quality says, “I take you at face value and don’t have a mold into which you must fit. I give you respect and reverence which make God’s love present.
Expectancy prompts each of us to wonder: Do I hope for good things to happen in my interaction with others?
The value in expectancy is the belief that we will arrive at greater truth and awareness of the beauty of each other. The heart of hope searches for the good.
Constancy makes us sensitive to this plea: “Please don’t excuse yourself as I express myself.” Do you have a pocketful of “how to get away” expressions?
The beauty of this attribute is that no matter what, I will stay until you have finished sharing. I will not interrupt, and I certainly won’t finish your sentence or story. Such faithfulness can be challenging. In the face of difficult, repetitious, or complicated talk a constant listener is a true reflection of God’s faithfulness.
These four qualities invite us to consider how we listen to others and to pray for the grace of God to transform us when we find ourselves struggling or unable to do so.
From Sowing Seeds: Essentials for Small Community Leaders, based on On Listening to Another by Douglas V. Steere

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


postcardsMany small groups meet in the spring and fall for six weeks, and for many reasons there is no opportunity to gather or even talk to or see each other between seasons.
With many people on vacation, at home or away from home, a colorful postcard with an “I’m thinking of you” expression, can be a most welcome—and needed—blessing for the recipient.
Follow this greeting with a word or two about yourself…

“enjoying the grandchildren;”
or “taking a cruise;”
or “having a stay-cation…just what I needed.”

Close with: “I trust you know God’s love and how much I care for you.” “How are you?”
Your name
In just a few minutes, you can create an unexpected blessing for someone with whom you have shared your faith, and you yourself likely will feel blessed by touching another’s life in this way.
It’s a great way to prepare the soil of souls for a new season of faith, friendship, and fun.
Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW International Pastoral Services Team and is an exceptional liturgist.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Page 1 of 3123
Home / Request Information / Shop Online
Why Catholic? / ¿Por qué ser católico? / ARISE Together in Christ / Longing for the Holy
Campus RENEW / Theology on Tap / RENEW Worldwide