With the structural, operational, financial, and personnel foundations in place, the grouping parishes focus on three critical steps supporting parish vitality; developing parish core leadership team, building and fostering a culture of evangelization and long-term pastoral plan for making disciples, building communities, and inspiring witness.
Parish Core Leadership Team
Many of our parishes are blessed with lay leaders who work side by side with their priests, deacons, and religious in bringing people closer to Christ. Fundamental to parish renewal is ensuring that every parish has a core leadership team of five to seven leaders supporting and implementing the Renew My Church vision. This team will be coached and accompanied by archdiocesan resources to thoughtfully develop and consistently implement a pastoral plan centered on our mission imperatives.
Divine Renovation During the pilot program, we are working with Divine Renovation Ministries with our newly formed parishes that have already advanced through the first two phases of the parish grouping process. Divine Renovation Ministries was founded by Fr. James Mallon, who, along with the team at Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, Canada, transformed his parish into a vibrant community of missionary disciples. Divine Renovation (DR) is not a program, it is a process for helping the parish core leadership team apply successful experiences from Catholic communities around the world to ensure the best ideas for parish vitality are pursued. In our pilot effort, experienced DR coaches are paired with each parish in the grouping process to form a healthy parish core leadership team.
Culture of Evangelization
How would somebody who doesn’t currently attend our church get started in your parish? Many of us would say Sunday Mass … “They should just come to church!” Think about that for a moment. This only works to a certain extent because attending Mass requires knowing the Catholic language, understanding the rituals and having someone next to you telling you when to stand, seat or kneel. Our liturgy, also known as The Mysteries, can be very mysterious to anyone lacking any prior experience with the Catholic faith.
For those already baptized Catholic and familiar with our liturgies, a return to Mass or a renewed experience of it might be the perfect way to re-enter a process of discipleship with our Lord, which is one of the reasons why a dynamic experience of the liturgy is crucial to parish renewal.
However, for many people in our culture the liturgy is not the best starting point (the key here is starting point), which is why our parishes must develop and offer clear entry ways that lead people who unfamiliar with our faith to an initial encounter with Jesus Christ. Forming and equipping local evangelization / discipleship teams is a big part of Building the New Reality. One of those offerings will be Alpha—internationally recognized for its effectiveness in drawing people into a strong first encounter with Jesus (see more below). The Archdiocesan Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship team will work with every parish to strengthen current evangelization programs and create a parish evangelization roadmap to align exciting programs and group offerings as well as ensure that all parish entry points lead to the deeper understanding of the Sacramental Life of the Church.
While developing the parish’s ministry and evangelization plan, the core leadership team and the Divine Renovation coach will pilot the use of an evangelization program called Alpha. Alpha is a tool to introduce people to an initial proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ—the Kerygma. Alpha often starts with food and fellowship, but leads to a question asked by many people—young and old alike, “Is there more to life than this?” Alpha works on the premise that faith itself blossoms only by hearing the Kerygma. Alpha offers a welcoming small group experience of a meal, short movie and facilitated discussion. It is a unique place of the “first encounter,” which then allows parishes to lead people deeper into discipleship and the next steps of faith enrichment, formation, sacramental initiation, and service.
Long-term Pastoral Plan Every community that wants to thrive and grow stronger for the next generation must consider its long-term plan for success—our parishes are no different. The final stage of the Renew My Church parish grouping process will focus on assisting our parishes in developing a realistic pastoral plan for the future; a plan that remains focused on making disciples, building community, and inspiring witness in sustainable, measurable ways.