Parish Pastoral Plan Week 4: Catholic Parish Renewal
Catholic Parish Renewal
With the present realities in today’s Church, it can be hard to see how to begin to move our parish forward so that it will grow and flourish. Fortunately, there are examples of Catholic parishes that have done just this.
About 8 years ago, because of declining attendance, three parishes in the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, Canada, joined together to become one parish. The newly appointed pastor, Fr James Mallon, rightly saw that if the parish continued as 'business-as-usual', then the same pattern of decline would likely continue. He decided to look at ways to renew the parish so that it became more authentic to its identity and mission.
He began with Jesus' 'Great Commission' in Matthew 28:19-20: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe everything that I have commanded you."
Jesus' request to the apostles was to "make disciples", or followers of Jesus, who commit themselves to a process of growth in a relationship with Jesus. So Fr James made this the parish's priority - to focus everything on making disciples of Jesus. A disciple is someone who has a relationship with Jesus, and has chosen to surrender and to follow him. The parish, therefore, created a space for people to meet Jesus, either for the first time, or to enter more deeply in relationship with Jesus (they use the 'Alpha course' for this). They became invitational, continually inviting everyone to come and share the Good News they had to offer; and they offer an extraordinary welcome to anyone who does come! This friendship with Jesus becomes the basis for their whole spiritual life, and people are then often hungry to learn more, and faith formation begins to thrive.
St Benedict's then invites people to be in small groups to continue fellowship and build community where people can journey together and share their faith and life. Every person is invited to use their gifts in ministry in the community, and the focus is on building up people. As Fr James says, "Don't use people to build up the Church; use the Church to build up people".
Fr James reminds us that the Church is in the business of changed lives, and this is what St Benedict's celebrates. Stories are regularly shared of how Jesus has made a difference to people's lives. They are slowly but surely changing parish culture so that it is more invitational, welcoming, and joyful, lived in real community where people belong, grow, serve and praise God in worship.
Fr James wrote his experience of parish renewal in a book titled, "Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish", and it provides principles for a way forward in turning a parish around. Many Catholic parishes and dioceses around the world are taking note. The focus is on being missionary and more outward focused so that parishes assume their true identity as being witnesses of Christ in the world.
To find out more, see the Divine Renovation website , or search for videos from Fr James Mallon at youtube.com, in particular a series of 5 short interviews.
Other initiatives that give insights into the revitalisation of parishes are: Rebuilt (a parish in Baltimore): rebuiltparish.com and www.churchnativity.com; Amazing Parish: amazingparish.org
Parish Planning Forums
All are invited to one of the following forums to discuss our parish planning process that will set the direction for our parish in coming years.
Sunday 14 October, 11.00am - 12.30pm, St Charles Borromeo Church
Monday 15 October, 7.30pm - 9.00pm, Holy Cross College Library
Reflection & Sharing
i. Which of the elements of a renewed parish mentioned above do you see as the most important?
ii. How might our parish become more missionary and outward-focused?