By JOHN HARPRING
NORTH AUGUSTA — When Jim and Elsie Bennie signed up for a small faith sharing group in a program called RENEW they didn’t know what to expect. The same was true for Marcia Delmore, Kate Anderson and many other parishioners at Our Lady of Peace Church in North Augusta. What they learned was the groups opened up a whole new world of spirituality and fellowship with other believers.
“I personally have been truly blessed and my spirituality has been truly blessed more than I ever imagined,” said Glynnis Doolittle, the RENEW coordinator at OLP. “I can’t even fathom what I’ll feel like in the fall of 1999 when this process comes to a close. The bonding that has taken place, both in the small groups and parish at large, is something that will effect the parish long after RENEW has ended. I strongly encourage people to participate. I know what they have to gain and they have nothing to lose.”
The Bennies have been at OLP for six years after moving from Hawaii. “What I got from the RENEW program that really made a big difference was the plain fact — being able to sit down with a group of diverse people and get to know them intimately. It doesn’t take very long and it’s very enriching,” said 71-year-old Elsie. “It made me friendlier. I was afraid when I first came here and it opened doors for me.”
Jim, age 76, also gained from his participation. “The thing I enjoyed most about it was the group that we were in was composed of all women and I was the only man. But I really enjoyed listening to the younger women talk about their problems with their families and their children. The older women in the group would give them advice and we learned where the younger ones were coming from. It was a transfer of wisdom.”
Marcia Delmore, 37, and her husband, Mark, 39, are transplanted northerners. She feels the small faith sharing groups helped her feel more at home at Our Lady of Peace. “I volunteered to do some visits (to explain RENEW to parishioners) and I really enjoyed it because you could put a name with a face. I met a lot of wonderful people that I had seen before but never really spoken to. Now when I see these people they’re more like family. All our family is up in Wisconsin so we’ve been really blessed by all the parishioners.”
The members of her faith sharing group made a commitment to do something each week like visit the sick or talk with a neighbor. “They say in giving you receive tenfold,” she said. “That’s definitely true.”
Joe Sciarro, 54, and his wife Irene, 51, also participated in the program. “The first season I was one of the group leaders,” said Joe. “We had Friday nights where five or six people came over to our house. It was very enlightening. We got to meet some new people and share various stories that related to the readings of that week. I like the spiritual aspect of it. It makes you more aware of things. I was never deeply into religion but the way RENEW is structured it allowed us to elaborate on our personal experiences.”
Kate Anderson, 39, feels she benefited from the faith sharing groups as well. She and her husband Dane has three young children and have attended OLP for 11 years. “It was very worthwhile,” said Kate. “We had a diversity of ages and backgrounds but by the end of the six weeks all of us were so together. We grew up at different times do we had different ideas of what is sin. Sister Damian (Regulska) was our facilitator and she was able to bring out a lot of the teachings of the church. It made us realize we don’t know a lot of our doctrine. It was just wonderful. I’m glad I did it a second time.”
Season III of RENEW will begin Oct. 4. Sign-up weekend for those wishing to participate in small faith sharing groups was held Sept. 12 and 13. Groups meet once a week for six weeks in the homes of various parishioners.
The theme of Season III of RENEW is Empowerment By The Holy Spirit. Our Lady of Peace Church held a three day mission based on that concept.
Father Daniel Munn, the chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Augusta, Ga., spoke Sept. 16. His topic was centered on “The Holy Spirit.” Father Tom Evatt of St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken presented a program on Sept. 17. He broke open “The Gospel of Life.” Father Sandy McDonald, pastor of Our Lady of Peace, concluded the mission on Sept. 18. Father McDonald discussed “Justice.”