Sister Theresa “Terry” Rickard’s passion for helping others develop a deeper relationship with Christ has led her to various ministries throughout her 34 years as a Sister of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York.
Some of Sister Terry’s earliest ministries were in parish ministry and mission in the South Bronx. Later, she would go on to minister in congregational vocation and formation, as well as parish retreats.
It was during her congregational ministry when Sister Terry first became familiar with RENEW International.
“I came [to RENEW International] because preaching is our charism [at the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York] and my gift; so I saw it as an opportunity. I first came here to be on the Pastoral Team and Iiked the idea of traveling both domestically and internationally. Those are some of the things that initially attracted me to RENEW and the idea that we could make a bigger impact on parishes,” commented Sister Terry.
RENEW International is a not-for-profit organization that’s mission is to “foster spiritual renewal in Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action.”
“Our organization is about helping parishes, revitalizing the faith of their parishioners, and not just about having a bible study or small group. Our material and training push people outwards to somehow live their faith in works of charity and acts of justice.”
For the past fifteen years, Sister Terry has served RENEW International in various capacities such as the Director of New Services, Presenter, and now President/CEO. Throughout that time she has seen a tremendous change.
“[Since I first started at RENEW International], what has changed significantly is the whole digital age. RENEW was predominantly print-based, so our team would go out and give these workshops mostly in person, and now we have to present our training and formation workshops on multiple platforms.”
“So now we do some things on the ground, as well as webinar training and video training. We have a whole gamut of ways to reach out to people today. We have traditional print materials, but many of our materials, also have a media aspect to them. We are continuing to transition to digital methods of outreach.”
The digital age has helped RENEW International extend their reach globally.
“[Digital has helped us tremendously] even in the less developed areas, because before it would be so hard when our trainees would go to certain countries and had limited methods of communication with the parishes. Now, most of the parish leaders have cell phones, and there are cell towers in these areas, which means we can do our training digitally and most of our communication can be through the phone.”
Over the past 40 years, RENEW International has had a presence in 24 countries globally.
Sister Terry hopes to extend RENEW International's presence in every single country and continent.
When RENEW International first began, it was essentially a program run just through the Archdiocese of Newark. As it evolved, the concept expanded throughout the country, then into Canada, Africa, and eventually Australia.
RENEW International’s home-base is in Plainfield, New Jersey, where Sister Terry oversees a team of about 20 full-time staff and another 12 that are contractors. However, they do have an office in Africa, which is run by a Pastor named Father Jerry Browne and a few part-time staff workers, who serve as Presenters. They also have a warehouse in Africa, where they print books for parishes.
“Everybody [at RENEW] is about the mission of helping people encounter Christ and connect with action; people trying to live their faith in the world.”
Sister Terry and her team at RENEW International are now embarking on their 40th year in ministry and their major processes – Be My Witness: Formation for the New Evangelization, ARISE Together in Christ, and Why Catholic? have been making a significant impact in parishes worldwide.
“RENEW’s three major processes are in the United States. Our biggest ones right now, Arise Together in Christ and Be My Witness are in seven languages. It’s useful because of where we serve. So let's say for instance in Brooklyn, the groups that we train are in Haitian Creole, Spanish, English, and Chinese. We have even had ARISE and Why Catholic? translated into Vietnamese.”
Even with the success that RENEW International has experienced throughout the past 40 years, Sr. Terry’s vision for her organization is to transform the parishioner experience worldwide.
“Pope Francis is calling forth this sense of moving from maintenance to mission and that everything’s got to be about growing the church, inviting people, healing people, forgiving people, and getting that message out.”
From a person’s first interaction with a parish, whether it be visiting their website or a phone call, Sister Terry hopes that RENEW International can assist parishes with transforming their culture, as well as have an understanding of different generations and how to successfully engage with them.
As a part of their Forward at Forty Initiative, RENEW International will be launching a project for parents who wish to present their children for baptism.
Sister Terry hopes to use this Baptism Preparation project as a launching point for a series of future projects.
“[I would like to have] a fully digital multi-platform formation program for young families that will help them to connect more with their local parishes. It would serve as a way to pass on faith to their children. We also would like our projects to help people to be more excited about their faith and give them the digital tools to help them with their sacraments, and eventually come to a renewed faith.”
You can learn more about Sister Terry, RENEW International and their Forward at 40 Initiative by visiting www.renewintl.org/celebrate40.