Fr James Mallon proposes, in his book a theology and model for how Catholic parishes could move from simply maintaining themselves to becoming missionary communities of disciples of Jesus Christ.
Following the recent conferences, several parishes across our country have embarked on the process of bringing communities from maintenance to mission.
So what is the fuss all about? After all most of our churches are full; or are they? I ask this question because it appears at the outset that our churches are full, however if we really look at where we were and where we are now - and if we are honest with ourselves - there are many leaving our church and doing so in droves. There is still lots of elbow room on our pews and we didn’t build our churches with the intention of having empty pews or large gaps which ought to be filled.
I am firmly of the belief that all parishes could be healthier, and all leaders can be better, of this I am convicted. The question is how much longer we will be so inwardly focused whilst many are leaving.
The Holy Redeemer parish combined their regular two masses into one special Mass where all who attended Mass received a warm welcome and name tag on arrival. This was in keeping with their theme for the day, which was taken from Isaiah 43:1: ‘I have called you by name and you are mine’. It was the first step in the parish “Game Plan”, one of the key steps in the Divine Renovation process.
The homily theme was about God calling us by name to become (more) missional. During Mass, the Core Group were presented to the congregation and commissioned, and the congregation greeted each other by name during Sign of Peace. At Holy Communion each person received the Body and Blood of Christ by name. To many parishioners this was the highlight of the day.
I am encouraged and stirred up by what Holy Redeemer has started and believe it is the spark that will lead to so many parishes and parishioners around the country burning with the Spirit of invitation, and of sharing of the gospel with the hundreds of people still outside the church.
Another tool for the 'Game Plan' is using Alpha as the parish evangelisation tool. With this free resource it allows the congregants to become more invitational with both the Adult and Youth series. Growing the community to find belonging and forming an intimate relationship with Jesus.