By Becky Aubut
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Sponsored by the Fall River Diocese’s Faith Formation Office, the next six-week Scripture Alive program being held in Fall River will focus on “Being Disciples of Jesus.”
“These Bible-sharing groups are something I’ve been doing for a long time now,” said Sister Frances Thomas, who has been facilitating groups for almost 10 years.
Sister Thomas runs two Scripture Alive groups, one based in East Freetown and held at St. John Neumann Parish, and the other in the conference room at the Office of Faith Formation on Highland Avenue in Fall River. Though the East Freetown group is maxed out at 15 members, there are spots are available for the Fall River group, said Sister Thomas. Incidentally, having run the groups for so long, Sister Thomas has begun to explore themed books.
“We’ve pretty much exhausted all the books,” she said. “We’ve done all the Gospels, all the letters and Revelations. We’ve done many, many books in the Old Testament. Last year I offered [the groups] themed books and they like them. We’re still using quotes from Scripture but not all from the same book.”
“Being Disciples of Jesus” is going to take selections from the Apostles Mark, John, Luke and Matthew during the six-week session. Sister Thomas said she uses the “Six Weeks with the Bible” from Loyola Press because the publication fits her idea of what Scripture Alive is all about.
“This is not a Bible study group at all; it’s a Bible-sharing group,” said Sister Thomas. “The questions in these books are very, very helpful. We’re focused on reflection and sharing, so [Loyola Press] comes up with very good questions. We might only use one or two of them, but it leads to more sharing and good discussion.”
Sister Thomas said she has devised her own method for each session; the group will take turns reading sections of the text aloud, and then there is silence while everyone re-reads it privately. After a few minutes, Sister Thomas will ask everyone to share what has touched him or her in that reading.
“There’s no discussion, just the sharing of that insight or feeling that came,” she said. “Later, after everyone has shared that — I view it as placing it on the table and everyone accepts it — we go into the questions that are in the book.”
The no-judgment, open-mindedness is key to creating a solid and supportive group, said Sister Thomas: “The beauty of this is that many of these people have come back year after year and they get to know each other well, and there’s a real strong trust level. That’s why the East Freetown group has no openings. It’s not that they all started with me, some of them did, but others have come along the way. They’re just sold on it; it’s become Church for them. They’re all faith-filled people in their Church community, but this is like feeding them more.”
Those who attend Scripture Alive are from all over the diocese, and one does not need to have a strong theology background to attend. In fact, you don’t need any theology education, at all, said Sister Thomas.
“There’s no background that’s needed,” she said. “This is not Bible study. I give background about the book, but I don’t spend a lot of time on that. The important thing is the text, itself, and how it affects them in their lives.”
Sister Thomas wants to use Scripture Alive as a tool for people to move beyond what they hear on Sunday. Those “pericopes,” an extract from a text or passage from the Bible, often are not put in context, said Sister Thomas.
“You have to know the context, what comes before, what comes after, what is this all about?” she said. “It’s when you really take the time to delve into it, let it wash over you and enter into you, every word and nuance. I love Scripture, I’m very passionate about Scripture.
“I’m happy to do it; it’s a joy for me to be with these people and share faith with them. It’s very uplifting, and I think that’s what people get out of it. It’s airing how each person shares their faith, lives their faith, and how that text inspires them. For me, as a person who’s been a teacher all my life, it’s to see the light go on. They have a new insight.”
For those who cannot attend the upcoming session both Scripture Alive groups will hearken in the 2017 year by studying Proverbs; for the Fall River group, the dates are January 5 to February 9, with possibly extending the end date due to snow days.
The Fall River area Scripture Alive study of “Being Disciples of Jesus” will commence on Thursday, September 15 to October 20, from 10 a.m. to noon. Fee is $10 to cover cost of text and resource materials. To register, please call Rose Mary Saraiva at the Office of Faith Formation at 508-678-2828 by September 8.