The ACTS HIV Ministry History
In 2000, at the urging of Fr. Mike Horan, a group of men and women who had been involved in parish ACTS Retreats began planning the first ACTS retreat intended to meet the spiritual needs of men and women infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Because of the social stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, many Christian communities have been neither openly nor warmly accepting of those infected and affected by the virus. This has kept many people from receiving the spiritual support and ministry they need. It was the hope of the Ministry to fill that gap, and provide a way for those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS to both grow closer to Christ in their individual spiritual journeys and to build a community in which to continue that growth, minister to each other, and reach out to others infected and affected by the virus.
An ACTS Weekend for Men and Women Infected or Affected by HIV/AIDS is very similar to an ACTS Retreat at any parish. Because of the flexibility of ACTS, a few extra elements have been added to meet the special spiritual needs of men and women dealing with the virus, but overall it is the same as any weekend ACTS experience. The retreat provides opportunities to renew spiritual life, strengthen faith, and build lasting friendships and community.
What is foremost is that the weekend be a safe haven for people to talk openly about the virus and its affect on their lives and spiritual journey, in the presence of others who are understanding, empathetic and compassionate. In a world that can be judgmental and stigmatizing to those infected and affected, confidentiality at an ACTS HIV/AIDS Retreat is of paramount importance.
Since the first ACTS HIV/AIDS Retreat in 2001, the Ministry has grown and expanded. Originally under the auspices of ACTS Missions (which was instrumental in the startup of the Ministry and remains supportive to this day), the Ministry has come to stand alone, just as parish ACTS Ministries do. In 2002, the ACTS HIV Ministry Core was started to administer the retreats, continue community among those who had attended an ACTS HIV/AIDS Retreat, and expand the Ministry. In 2003, a prayer group started, and in 2004 evolved into monthly Mass for the ACTS HIV community – held the third Sunday of every month at the Holy Redeemer 1819Nevada St in San Antonio Tx 78203. In 2005, the ACTS HIV/AIDS Ministry became an incorporated non-profit organization.
From 2008 through 2010, the ACTS HIV Ministry sponsored its first three retreats outside of San Antonio – in Boston, Massachusetts! Our New England brothers and sisters are shining examples of God’s love and are full of enthusiasm for the Ministry.
The ACTS HIV community continues to expand. Since the first retreat, more than 700 men and women have either served on team or attended an ACTS/HIV Retreat, thus joining the community. The yearly fundraiser – the ACTS-travaganza® - allows the Ministry to continue to sponsor retreats and provide scholarships so that anyone can attend an ACTS HIV/AIDS Retreat regardless of economic circumstances. Other events like the annual Christmas Barge caroling on the Riverwalk, and a monthly Faith Sharing Group provide opportunities for fellowship, spiritual renewal, and service to the extended community.