The NPPN Executive serves the National Pastoral Planners Network whose purpose is to promote and strengthen a culture of planning for mission and evangelisation within the Catholic Church in Oceania. We engage pastoral research and best practices in church growth to offer experience, knowledge, resources and processes that enable dioceses and parishes to advance the mission of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Spirit.
Welcome to the Spring 2016 issue of SpiritWork, the newsletter of the National Pastoral Planners Network. There is much Good News to share in this new edition with developments from across Australia, expressing the commitment of local churches and parishes to taking a strategic and planned approach to the mission of God.
In June I was privileged to attend the Divine Renovation Conference in Halifax, Canada, which provided an opportunity to learn from and be immersed in the experience behind the book of the same name.
For those who may not be familiar with this work, Divine Renovation tells the story of St Benedict’s Parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a parish led by Fr James Mallon in collaboration with his senior leadership team, parish team, pastoral council and an army of lay leaders. The parish has become a genuinely evangelising community that brings people into encounter with Jesus through a well-developed discipleship process.
Underlying the foundations of parish culture at St Benedict’s – vibrant liturgies and well-crafted homilies and hospitality, promotion of Alpha for the purpose of community and proclamation of the Gospel, mid-sized ‘Connect Groups’ flowing on from these, and a ministry or leadership development process – is a parish team and parish pastoral council with a great dedication to pastoral planning.
For those interested in their stepwise process, the recently released Divine Renovation Guidebook will be of great appeal. Happily, this guidebook reiterates many of the principles of pastoral planning that are the focus of this network. They include a vision for the parish mission that is communicated, a well-considered ‘game plan’ for accompaniment through the stages of discipleship, and the setting of priorities by a parish team that has the courage to say ‘no’ to good things in order to choose the best things.
In this issue we share news of planning in our own Australian context, including coverage of the Diocese of Cairns which has recently launched its diocesan pastoral plan, Encountering Christ, Sharing our Joy, news of David Shinnick who has presented to archive an overview of the significant history of pastoral planning in the Archdiocese of Adelaide which is currently undertaking a process of parish renewal, and an inspiring contribution from Sr Sonia Wagner, keynote at our 2015 NPPN conference, sharing the process of the Port Pirie pastoral plan as it is expressing itself in this Year of Mercy.
Ultimately, our commitment to pastoral planning reflects our dedication to making disciples, recognising that we need to offer our people pathways or itineraries for personal growth. This is in preference to standalone programs that can run the risk of creating what that other work Rebuilt well identified as a ‘Catholic consumer culture’ in which people expect but do not contribute, seek to be served rather than serve as missionary disciples.
Growing parishes and faith communities, both local and abroad, constantly recall for us that programs without a larger context of process within a parish may provide an experience or consolation of a ‘quick fix’ but do not produce lasting or authentic renewal. As noted in Divine Renovation, “Any course run in a parish will be only as good as the culture of that parish. Even a very successful tool for evangelisation like Alpha will have a very limited impact if the values of a parish are vastly different from the values within a particular program” (Fr James Mallon, Divine Renovation, 94).
This conversation on parish life continued in the form of PROCLAIM 2016, recently concluded in the Diocese of Broken Bay. Over three days in September some 520 delegates from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific gathered to talk through and share ideas on the ongoing cultural transformation of our parishes towards mission. A summary of this conference is included in this edition of SpiritWork. We are called, as frequently underscored by Pope Francis, to cultural change for the purpose of mission. We live not in an ‘age of change’ but a ‘change of age.’ May our pastoral planning at the level of diocese and parish contribute to this transformation in service of the Gospel.
With every good wish,