Divine Renovation is a book by Father James Mallon and is based on his experiences of St Benedict’s Parish in Canada. In it, he describes how we should transform our parish in keeping with the call of a succession of Popes since the Second Vatican Council. It urges parishes to focus outwardly in developing their evangelising and missionary vocation. The publication was used by the Newry Cathedral Parish Pastoral Council in their recent development day as a template on how we could transform Newry Cathedral Parish.
In his book, Father Mallon tells us not to look back to the former days of unequivocal support for the church and states that we need to rebuild from where we are at. We need to show brave leadership in spite of constraints. He tells us how he faced many challenges in transforming his parish into a vibrant faith community – in face of opposition he found a way. He states that there is no merit being warm and welcoming to people we know and we are charged with going out and speaking with people we have not met before.
The central features of Divine Renovation process include 3 key principles ((1) the absolute primacy of evangelisation (2) best leadership principles (3) experience of the Holy Spirit); and the Game Plan strategy used by St Benedict’s Parish is to ‘form disciples who joyfully live out the mission of Jesus Christ’. They do this by creating a culture of an invitational church which invites people to events or activities they will enjoy and which will nourish them spiritually, including Alpha, the Alpha Team, Connect Groups, Discipleship Groups, Ministry and Worship. Divine Restoration is not a template to be imposed identically on parishes, but a set of principles which can guide the development of individual parishes according to their unique situations. In our Parish this would mean Canon Francis, the clergy and the Parish Pastoral Council working on a vision of what we want Newry Parish to be like in 10 years’ time and developing a ‘road map’ and strategy for achieving this.
When I first read this book, I felt uncomfortable as mission and evangelism do not seem to be associated with Irish Catholic Culture. Yet this call to Evangelisation is rooted in many of the 16 documents which were produced over the life of the Second Vatican Council, 1962 to 1965. There was an emphasis on Holiness and mission. Mission was not to be left to the clergy since as baptised Catholics we are charged now to go out and share our faith.
People can only evangelise when they have been evangelised themselves. Hence there is a personal journey first before we proceed on what Pope Francis calls being a ‘Field hospital to the world’. As Catholics we are called on to rebuild the Church and go out and become missionary disciples . The witness of our lives is not enough. Actions and words are both needed. As Pope Francis says, ‘Go do it’.
Do read the book by Fr James Mallon. Divine Renovation – Bringing your parish from Maintenance to a Mission is available in the Veritas Bookshop on The Mall, Newry or on Amazon by clicking here.