The Parish Renewal Team have recently completed a research project which explored the effectiveness of its work over the past five years.
The Parish Renewal Team has the responsibility for implementing the vision, strategies and actions for Strengthening and Revitalising Parishes, one of the seven key priority areas of the 2016-2021 Archdiocesan Plan.
Conducted by Nigel Hayward, some 50 parish priests were interviewed as part of the research to provide their feedback on all aspects of the work of the Parish Renewal team.
Episcopal Vicar for Parish Renewal, Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton said, very importantly, the project also researched what clergy believe is pivotal to a vibrant Parish.
“The survey revealed that our Priests are enthusiastic about building Parish communities that are active and vibrant,” Bishop Sproxton said.
“More than 40 per cent of those surveyed describe the Parish community to be a place where all are welcome, a place that is pastorally concerned for people, especially the marginalised, and a place which brings people together,” he said.
“The aim of the Parish then, is to improve community spirit and build stronger foundations for growing the faith and the spiritual lives of Parishioners. In essence, a community that demonstrates a faith which goes beyond the Mass.”
Part of the Parish Renewal program for the Archdiocese over the past five years has been the initiative of working in Parish Hubs.
A Hub is a means for neighbouring Parishes to work together in a more effective way, inviting and encouraging neighbouring parishes, schools and Parish Pastoral Councils to work together collaboratively.
Parish Renewal co-ordinator, Fr Nino Vinciguerra, explained that the research showed that the greatest benefit of Parish Renewal, as shared by priests and clergy, is that the Hub gives them the opportunity to share resources in areas such as Adult Faith Formation, Children’s Sacramental formation, RCIA, Liturgy, Youth and Music.
“Priests indicated that working in a Hub is supportive of their ministry,” Fr Nino said.
“These findings will shape the future direction of our work, especially our desire to work collaboratively, not only with Parishes, but with the Archdiocese as a whole,” he said.
“This desire for collaboration comes from a fundamental belief that to renew a Parish, it requires the collaboration of the whole Diocese.
“It echoes the wisdom: It takes a village to raise a child,” Fr Nino concluded.
The research project also reaffirmed the Team’s strategy to work firstly with Parish clergy and their Parish Pastoral Councils, for as Archbishop Costelloe states: Parish pastoral councils …are critically important to the vitality of Parish life and indeed to the Archdiocese. (Constitution for Parish Pastoral Councils 2018)
Fr Nino explained this initial strategy of formation for Parish Pastoral Councils was to assist Parishes to deepen and, in many cases, to rediscover the true nature and role of the Parish Pastoral Council, and to lead them into a discernment of what Jesus is truly asking of them.
“In this process of pastoral planning, it is crucial that Parishes collaborate with each other and with the Diocese,” Fr Nino explained.
“This approach of renewing Parishes, especially the initiative of Parish Hubs, is unique to our Archdiocese, however, it is a pioneering initiative that is very much in communion with the practice of synodality of the Plenary Council and of the Synod 2021 – 2023 called by Pope Francis,” he said.
Bishop Sproxton concluded his foreword to the report by expressing his sincere thanks to Nigel Hayward who conducted the project with great competence and encouraged Parishes to take the opportunity to explore the Report.
The data and the findings of the Report are accessible on the parish renewal website www.parishrenewal.com.au under Parish Renewal News.