Auckland Auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen, as well as priests and lay leaders in the diocese, are responding to challenges to parishes today by studying the principles of Divine Renovation, and working out how these principles can be implemented at the grass–roots level.
“As we’re meeting right now (by Zoom on September 9), all the priests in Christchurch diocese, who are in parish ministry, are meeting as well. They are looking at exactly the same thing we are looking at. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that two dioceses are meeting at the same time, in the same country, talking about (the same challenges) exactly the same thing,” Bishop Gielen said.
Divine Renovation, a parish mission resource, was introduced to the New Zealand Church by Canadian Fr James Mallon at the national priests’ assembly in Christchurch two years ago. The aim, Fr Mallon said then, was to convert pew-dwellers into missionary disciples.
The Auckland priests and lay leaders embarked on a series of sessions – some online and some (in Covid alert level 1) face-to-face – to see how the resource can be adopted in local parishes. A range of comments were made at the most recent meeting.
Fr Rodney Smyth, SM, said he found the programme wonderful, but was concerned about how it would fit in with the initiatives already discussed at a recent diocesan priests’ assembly, as well as the ones to be considered in the coming gathering in October, as well as the forthcoming diocesan pastoral plan.
Msgr David Tonks said that, looking at the points concluded in the diocesan priests’ assembly and the soon–to–be–announced diocesan pastoral plan, “the Divine Renovation fits in with the whole missionary discipleship thrust, doesn’t it? That (Divine Renovation) to me is kind of bringing more vibrancy to our communities”.
Bishop Gielen added they would make sure the programmes do not work in contrast to, or in parallel with, each other.
“You want them to be working together, and that will definitely be the case,” he said.
Bishop Gielen said he will be inviting Taupo’s parish priest Msgr Trevor Murray to discuss his (Msgr Murray’s) own experiences with the programme at the next clergy gathering. He said Msgr Murray has been down this track for about two years.
Lay leader Emily Sit said the real challenge after the six-week exchange of ideas and reflections was going back to the parishes and implementing these ideas.
Fr Sherwin Lapaan said most of the parishes are already implementing their own programmes to make missionary disciples.
“What we needed was a good structure, a good platform to get there. I think that’s where Divine Renovation comes in,” he said.
He said they will be implementing Divine Renovation in Pakuranga parish.
Fr Rory Morrissey said that, at Sacred Heart parish in Ponsonby, they are aware that they also have to reach out to people who are outside of the Church.
“We are aware that the whole thrust of this is not only to care for the people that we already have in our care, but to try and make an outreach to the people around us in this local area who are uncatechised, (or) unevangelised,” he said.
The others in the group expressed optimism that this programme would bear fruit in their parishes.
“I’ve really embraced the whole concept and I’ve read the book (by Fr Mallon). And also, I’ve given it (the book) to my new parish council chairperson,” said Fr Robert Steele.
Bishop Gielen said that contact will be made with other people, who have already implemented the programme, to further enrich its implementation in the parishes.
“This is not the end. It’s the beginning,” he said.