For Pope Francis, a parish is alive and finds its home and missionary action in its members: ‘If the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”.’ (Evangelii Gaudium, §28)

Today, we live in a world that is markedly different from the world in which many of our parishes were created 50 or 100 years ago. For parishes, that presents both a challenge and an opportunity for a ‘reframing of our thinking … in order to bring renewed life’ and to ensure our local Church becomes ‘more vital for God’s people’ (Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, Take the Way of the Gospel pastoral letter). Many parishes across the Archdiocese have taken up this task.

Parish clergy and leadership teams across the Archdiocese are gathering for a workshop day later this month to explore how parishes can grow into communities of grace filled with vibrancy and vitality.

Ron Huntley, an international leadership coach for priests and leadership teams, will be one of the speakers at this session. According to Ron, a clear Gospel vision is crucial for parish leaders to help grow vitality.

‘A vision that is rooted in your encounter with Jesus is the fuel for renewal that leads to vital parishes,’ Huntley says. ‘If you as the leader do not feel it in the deepest part of your gut you will quickly loose your appetite ... Moses knew he was called and he knew where he was going. What he didn’t know was how to get there or how long it was going to take.’

Fr Chris Ryan MGL, who has ministered in Melbourne for many years and is now Parish Priest in Penhurst and Peakhurst in Sydney, will speak on ‘Authentic Communities—Growing Vibrant Parishes’.

Cath Garner, the Take the Way of the Gospel Strategy Co-ordinator, will explore how Take the Way of the Gospel will help parishes to develop a framework and pathway for parish renewal. Over the last year, Cath has listened and worked alongside parishes.

‘When I first started in this role, the question I most frequently heard was along the lines, “I get Archbishop Peter’s vision for vibrant, vital and viable parishes, but what exactly are we being asked to do?”’ Garner says. ‘With the help of the Reference and Advisory Group and others, we have tried to answer this question with the Take the Way of the Gospel Framework for Parish Renewal. We hope it will help parishes better understand the work ahead and find a place to start their journey to missionary renewal.’

For both Ron and Cath, the experience of listening and working with priests and laypeople in Melbourne has been a blessing.

Huntley, who has helped coach a number of priests and parish leadership teams over the past couple of years says that ‘the people of Melbourne are good humoured, pragmatic and faithful. Australians know how to have fun and laugh and that makes my work a joy.’

Garner discovered some learnings along the way. ‘As I have been listening and walking alongside parishes over the last year, I think what I have heard best comes together in the recent ‘Leading for Mission’ parish consultations, in the great desire expressed for parishes to be places of hospitality and welcome, where relationships are fostered and lead to deep connection.’

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Leading Missionary Parishes: Vital and Vibrant Parishes will take place on Saturday 15 July, 10am–3pm, at the Catholic Leadership Centre. Parish clergy and lay leaders are invited to this enriching workshop day with prayer, music, inspiring talks and team activities.

Registrations close Thursday 6 July at 6pm.