ACTS movement celebrates silver anniversary Nov. 16

November 13, 2012

HOUSTON — Acts 2:42 states, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” 

This simple description of the lives of the earliest Christians declares the importance of community, evangelization and catechesis. It is also the commission for ACTS, an inter-parish ministry born 25 years ago in a small San Antonio-area church and now poised to go global.

On Nov. 16, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo will celebrate the ACTS movement’s silver anniversary at a Mass in the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, 1111 St. Joseph Pkwy., in downtown Houston.

ACTS is an acronym for adoration, community, theology and service, which are also the ministry’s precepts. At its core are annual parish retreats — one for men, one for women — and at some churches, one for teens. They’re conducted in English or Spanish and are open to non-Catholics. Retreats begin on a Thursday night and end with a Sunday Mass.

For many ACTS members, it’s where they deepen their faith and heed the call to service. As a result, many parishes report more active parishioners. “(So) many have become the beneficiaries of this renewed sense of spiritual vigor and resolve to faithfully live out the Gospel message in our daily lives,” the cardinal wrote in a July letter blessing the ACTS community.

“It’s not about retreat ministry,” said Rand Pombier, missions facilitator for the Houston ACTS Chapter. “It’s about a way to evangelize people to make them more involved within their parish community. ...It is a way to be part of the new evangelization, especially in this Year of Faith.”

Pombier is a parishioner of St. Clare of Assisi in the Clear Lake area of Houston. St. Clare was the first church in the Archdiocese to host ACTS, in 2001. The parish was “missioned” by a San Antonio parish.

Missioning is another important precept. In order to ensure an enduring parish ministry, parishes spend no less than two years in formation, under the tutelage of another parish that has already been through the process. It also creates enduring bonds between parishes, as well as ACTS members.

A parish that wishes to form an ACTS ministry first receives its pastor’s blessing, then appoints a formation committee — usually 10 men and 10 women — to work with ACTS leaders in the Archdiocese. The first order of business is to attend an ACTS retreat. The parish is eventually paired with a missioning parish — typically based on geography or demographics, but often based on the bonds ACTS members have formed with one another.

With the missioning parish as a partner, the neophyte parish holds one men’s retreat and one woman’s retreat per year for at least two years. For some parishes, the formation process may take longer. When a parish is determined to be fully formed, a core administrative team is chosen. The parish can then mission other parishes.

In the Archdiocese there are 20 parishes with core administrative teams. Three more parishes are in the process of forming their core teams. Twelve parishes are in the process of being missioned by other parishes. Six parishes have expressed an interest in joining the movement.

Since mid-July, there have been 33 retreats in the Archdiocese — usually two every weekend — and seven more scheduled before year’s end.
ACTS has spread to parishes in 22 states, Mexico and Canada. There are also prison ACTS ministries and stateside parishes are in the process of taking ACTS to U.S. military installations around the world. Once those ministries are seeded, they are likely to spread the movement to host countries.
“When it starts to grow, it grows in leaps and bounds,” Pombier said.

For more information about ACTS, visit www.actsmissions.org or www.actsmissionshouston.org.