Teri Gay knows that her parish's new program to revitalize parish life and spirituality may not sound like a groundbreaking concept.
"Sometimes I think people feel overwhelmed and say, 'Oh my God, another new program,'" said the co-chair from Corpus Christi parish in Round Lake.
But this program, she said, uses a model with a high success rate in the Albany Diocese: small faith-sharing groups.
Leaders say Corpus Christi is the first parish in the Diocese to use Living the Eucharist, a three-year parish program sponsored by Paulist Evangelization Ministries.
"We're really excited that we're offering something unique and new," Mrs. Gay said. "I think people are searching for a way to live their identities as Catholics every day of the week in a very meaningful way. There are many people who come to Mass and are sitting in the pews among hundreds of people and feel very alone."
The program seeks to raise parishioners' awareness of the Eucharist as a part of life outside of Mass. To that end, more than half a dozen Lenten small groups will meet in homes or other informal settings. They'll teach the lectio divina practice of scriptural reading and prayer and talk about different faith-related topics. The youth ministry program will lead teen groups.
The parish will also offer activity guides for families with small children and personal daily devotional booklets for every parishioner.
A prayer campaign kicked off the program last weekend with special prayer cards in pews and a homily from Rev. James Clark, pastor. The 16-member leadership team, made up of retreat coordinators and others lending special talents, will recruit small group leaders at Masses the first two weekends in January.
Even before Christmas, 12 parishioners were already on board to lead groups.
"We've gotten such an enthusiastic response," Mrs. Gay said. "We're hoping for a huge participation on the part of the parish. Many people are looking for a Lenten program, a way to prepare for Easter, and this is ideal."
Mrs. Gay and her husband, John, started planning the program in October after Father Clark nominated them for the job. They had been parishioners for seven years, but never participated in ministries.
"We were sort of flying under the radar at church for a long time," noted Mrs. Gay, a historian and writer. Mr. Gay runs an engineering firm in Malta. "We jumped at the chance. We'd actually been looking for a way to become more involved."
The Gays say their new role seems to be inspiring a new crop of parishioners to get involved in ministry - people who may have been too scared or intimidated to take initiative previously.
They have Father Clark to thank for it, Mrs. Gay said: "He's been such a wonderful cheerleader. He has just done so much to energize our parish. He's a real firecracker for getting people to do things."