There are balloons and banners and bumper stickers and T-shirts, flow charts and a 200-page manual of detailed instructions for every phase of this three-year effort to revitalize the Catholic Church.

The campaign even has its own symbol: a massive, ancient tree trunk with a crop of new leaves sprouting from gnarled branches.

It has a vocabulary all its own: "process," "the Core Committee," "the Take Home Committee," "The Overnight," and, of course, in all capital letters, "RENEW."

RENEW is the name of the Washington Archdiocese program that was formally launched with a special mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last Sunday. It is also a one-word definition of the program's goal: "To revitalize our parish life and activity," said Archbishop James A. Hickey.

The RENEW program, which originated six years ago in the Archdiocese of Newark, is designed to involve the maximum number of lay church members, meeting in small groups to study the Bible and explore what meaning the ancient Scriptures have for Christians in today's world.

It is intended to strengthen parish life as well as deepen personal faith. Ultimately, its goal is to motivate church members to put their faith to work for the benefit of the larger community.

In his homily at last Sunday's mass, the Rev. Raymond Kemp, director of the RENEW program, pointed out that "we do not become disciples of Christ just to be part of a groovy group or to learn a way of self-perfection . . . . We have a vineyard to work, a world to save, a peace to fashion, a justice to seek. That doesn't happen in church buildings."

RENEW calls for the small study groups to meet "as did the early Christians, in one another's homes," Kemp said.

One hundred of the archdiocese's 130 parishes have signed up to be part of the RENEW program, Kemp said recently. He estimated that 15,000 lay Catholics have signed up for the small discussion groups in "a new rising tide of folks that are talking religion."

The groups meet for five "seasons" of six sessions each, with specific themes for each season. They begin with an examination of faith and move toward putting that faith into practice. In the fifth season, Kemp said, participants "will do some outreach" with persons not now active in any church.

They will "contact people who used to be Roman Catholics or people who are not anything," Kemp said, adding, "We are not raiding other churches."

The Rev. Martin Bednar of St. Camillus parish in Silver Spring said the RENEW program will contribute to the unity of that 1,600-family parish and offer "a better understanding" of the responsibilities of being a Christian today.

St. Camillus has 700 people, 250 of whom are Hispanic, who have pledged to participate in the small group sessions, Bednar said. "We started planning this way back in January," he said. Already he has seen a new awareness of prayer in the parish, which he wants to build on to become "a powerhouse of prayer."

The Silver Spring parish will launch its RENEW program at 8 o'clock tonight with a 2 1/2-hour prayer meeting. "There will be prayers and singing and a procession with the Bible, and we'll talk about what [the Bible] means in our church," Bednar said.

"It's a little different than anything they've ever done before at St. Camillus and the pastor said he is not sure how it will work and how many will come. But we're going to have it whether there are a few people or a lot of people," he said.