In the spring of 1992, a small group of parishioners from St. Frances de Chantal Parish led by Father John Murphy, the pastor, participated in a two-day workshop to value RENEW, a program of spiritual renewal and enrichment. Through a process of prayer, shared faith, a deep discernment a positive outcome laid the groundwork for an extraordinary parish journey.
The pastor sent out 3200 letters inviting and encouraging parishioners to participate in RENEW, a process to revitalize the parish through the power of God’s abundant graces. Amazing numbers of volunteers gathered together to brainstorm, network, head-up, and staff the many committees needed to undertake its launching. Parishioners were kept abreast of these committees through the Sunday Bulletins and homilies. Intense training took place during this initial period, as well as, ongoing prayer for guidance and fulfillment.
The response was overwhelming! Within a three-week period, 670 people responded to the pastor’s invitation and were formed into 54 groups of 10-12 people led by one or two facilitators. The groups were asked to make a commitment to meet in a host-home for two six-week sessions, once in the fall and the other during Lent for two and a half years. The theme of each session followed a basic conversion process calling parishioners to a new and deeper conversion of heart. The themes were: The Lord’s Call, Our Response to the Lord’s Call, Empowerment by the Spirit, Discipleship, and Evangelization. The materials used during the meetings were excellent, and the Spirit was alive and present at these gatherings!
When the two-and-a-half year period of RENEW was ended, a stronger sense of Community was experienced by parishioners. Attendance increased at daily Mass, and the grace and blessings of the Holy Spirit were deeply felt. The evolution of these small groups is the Small Christian Communities.