By Joseph Ku
Chinese Catholic Community
In 1991, Monsignor Tom Kleisser and Sister Mary McGuiness, founders of Renew International, came to our San Jose Catholic Community to introduce the Renew program to us. It was the first time we participated. Seven years later, the Diocese of San Jose worked with Renew International to promote this renew program again in 1998. This was the second time we were involved. Ever since this renew program, our community has developed many small faith-sharing groups throughout Santa Clara County. We felt very blessed in our spirituality not only as an individual, but also collectively in the whole community.
Lately we heard the Diocese promoted this Renew Program again. Our Parish Council thought it is a good time to revitalize our community, since we did it 16 years ago. Our Pastor, Father Alberto Olivera, also encouraged us to sign up. We felt more interested now that this program has been revised in 2006, and the contents were designed to be more relevant to our contemporary life. The theme of this Renew Program is “Arise! Together with Christ,” which focuses on building up intimate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ. Although we Catholics are supposed to have an uttermost relationship with Christ through the Eucharist, ironically, we seldom emphasize Jesus as my personal savior among us, let alone conversion experience.
This renew program will spread to Five Seasons:
Season 1: Encounter Christ Today
Season 2: Change Our Hearts
Season 3: In the Footsteps of Christ
Season 4: New Heart, New Spirit
Season 5: We are the Good News!
Each season we provide material for the small group leader and their members to prepare before the meeting. As we prepared our Renew Program for the whole community, we help Renew International to translate their English booklet into Chinese version. Now these material are available for Chinese Catholics worldwide, which is a significant contribution to the Evangelization of Chinese seekers. In the meantime we also translated a beautiful hymn, “By the waking of our Hearts” by Ricky Manalo, into Chinese lyrics and use it as our theme song for the Renew Program.
We started Season 1 in the Fall of 2016. The first season we had 25 small faith-sharing groups signed up, total participation of 250 people. After 6 weeks of faith-sharing sessions, many small groups were so fired up, and continued their meetings in between seasons. We felt very encouraged after seeing the outcome. Through our experience, we observed that if the small group leader facilitates the meeting in a right way, Christ, himself is enough to attract people, no need to find way to entertain people in order to keep them interested.
Season 2, we started the week of Ash Wednesday. We have more people this time: 27 groups, a total of 300 people. The contents of these six weeks are very relevant to the Lenten season reflection, and more meaningful actions were recommended, which are beyond “give up sweet” or “restart failing New Year resolution” during Lent.
We are looking forward to three more seasons to complete this Renew Program. We encourage all other Parishes who have not yet participated to go for it. Even if you only have a handful parishioners encounter Christ and have profound conversion experiences, that would be enough to boost the spirit of the whole parish.
Pope Benedict XVI has said, “we can only have faith in Christ if we encountered Him. We can only encounter Him by following Him. Only if both things are true of us can we bear witness to Him and carry His light to the world.”