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Awakening and igniting the faith

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Who is the Holy Spirit? What is the meaning of life? Why is the Resurrection important? What does Jesus want us to know? These were some of the questions explored by parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church as part of "Discovering Christ," a seven-week evangelization program.

The program - developed by ChristLife, a lay apostolate from the Baltimore Archdiocese - seeks to help people have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This was one of the first times the series was offered in Spanish.

"It was very fruitful," said Rossnat Rodríguez, member of Effetá, the parish ministry that volunteered to facilitate and help translate the series. "We had people who were part of parish groups for years and youths, but also people who were not involved in the parish or were away and wanted to come back to the church."

"Discovering Christ" is different, she said. The workshop gives people a chance to know and serve Christ while starting a conversion process to become active disciples. It consists of seven weekly sessions and a retreat. Each session has four components: a dinner, the welcome prayer, dynamic teaching, and small group discussions. The program has two follow-up series, "Following Christ" and "Sharing Christ."

Freddie Vásquez, 24, said that these sessions were like "an alternative way to reach Jesus."

"It's a good start, especially for those who don't go to church," he said.

"'Discovering Christ' is not only an opportunity to evangelize but to awaken and ignite our own faith," Rodríguez said. "Many have stayed with a first Communion (kind of) faith. What we do is to pick up from there and review that faith, so it can grow.

"It's a way to fall in love with Christ again. And, for the individuals who are not in the church, it's a way to deepen their knowledge of who this Jesus is."

Emma Rodríguez, 62, who was invited to participate by a friend, said that she likes to be able to meet with people in a safe space and learn about Christ.

"I want to dedicate this time to Jesus," she said. "Now I have this hunger to continue learning about Christ."

St. Anthony is one of five parishes in the country to offer this program in Spanish, said Pete Ascosi, ChristLife assistant director. So far, some of the materials for the moderators of "Discovering Christ" have been translated, and there has been a small grassroots community - that includes the Office for Evangelization from the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J. - helping translate the rest of the material.

"Some of the parishes offer (the talks) as a bilingual program," Ascosi said. "They do the dinner and sharing together and then work on the day's lesson (in their dominant language)."

Father Stephen F. McGraw, St. Anthony parochial administrator, said he was happy that the parish was one of the pioneers offering the program in Spanish.

St. Anthony volunteers sought the guidance of parishes that had offered this evangelization series before, such as St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington and St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax. Both parishes have conducted the three seven-week series in English - Discovering, Following and Sharing Christ - multiple times.

"Discovering Christ" aims to answer the missionary call of Jesus and the church by way of a proclamation. This includes covering the needs of those who are baptized but might live in the margins of the Christian life. To give testimony through the "kerygma," the central proclamation of the Gospel, the salvation in Christ, is a call to conversion and acceptance of a personal relationship with Him.

Parishioners Teresa Marroquin and José Maquen said that participating in the program was like finding Christ again. "It helps you to know Jesus in a dynamic way and reinforces the faith," he said.

The parish will start the second part of the ChristLife evangelizing series in Spanish, "Following Christ," in August. There also are plans to start an English-language "Discovering Christ" program there this fall.

Negro can be reached at mnegro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @MNegroACH.

Find out more

Go to christlife.org

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014