TOWARDS A TRANSFORMED PARISH

 

 Five years ago I was bowled over when I read “Rebuilt” by Fr. Mike White and Tom Corcoran. "Rebuilt" tells the account of how the Church of the Nativity Parish in Baltimore, USA was transformed from being a dead Parish, with no young adults and few children to being a vibrant fully renewed RC parish.  How did they do it? The Holy Spirit guided them to go and learn from the successful Pentecostal and Protestant churches in the US and bring what they learned back to their Parish around the Eucharist. 

This led to the introduction of Sunday School at each Mass, Coffee after each Mass, welcome committee, Prayer Ministry, Small Groups etc. and it transformed their Parish.  (www.churchnativity.tv). 

As a result of "Rebuilt", we started a Hospitality Ministry (with a rotating Team of 16) on Sundays after the 10am Mass in our Parish of Johnstown/Killiney in south Dublin.  Between home bakes and a Kids' Zone, it has become a very successful ministry in our Parish bringing together young and old and fostering a real sense of belonging and community. 

This in turn led first to a Men’s Breakfast and more recently a Women’s breakfast held 7 times a year on Sat. mornings.  As well as a delicious breakfast, there is always a guest speaker who shares about their faith journey and how it impacts their life.  Many Catholics are not used to hearing lay people share personally about their faith and are very encouraged by these sharings.

Another book "Divine Renovation" by Fr. James Mallon shows how his Parish in Nova Scotia Canada (www.saintbenedict.ca) moved from maintenance to mission in a relatively short period of 5/6 years, mainly through running the Alpha Course.  He has had over 2,000 parishioners through Alpha and regularly has 150/200 on their 11 week long Alpha, of which a third would be non-church goers. 

This Renewal/Evangelisation has transformed the way they run Sunday Mass. They initiated a Prayer Ministry after Mass:  Fr. James says that “Trained teams of lay people offer prayer ministry at the end of each Mass ... 60 to 70 people each week receive prayer ministry that impacts their lives. Some years ago, I promised God that when someone asked me to pray for them, I would pause and do it on the spot. These moments have led to profound encounters, often with tears... relief, peace and healing.”

A number of parishioners had been greatly inspired by Fr. James Mallon when he spoke at the Transformed Parish Conference in Maynooth, just over a year ago. Accordingly, a team of 14 have since last September  offered this Prayer Ministry after our 10am Mass. We were formally commissioned on a Sunday during Mass in December. Each Sunday we have two Prayer Teams (a man and a woman in each). Christian Prayer is powerful and effective and Jesus is our model.  When approached for help, Jesus said " What would you like me to do for you?”.  So the Prayer Teams ask the person who comes for prayer – "What would you like us to pray for you today?" People ask for prayer for personal needs, job interviews, illness, anxiety etc.

We emphasise that all requests shared are confidential to the Prayer Ministry team and they always include a blessing on the individual and their family.  Prayer time is short just 2/3 minutes. Each Sunday, parishioners approach us for prayer after our 10am Mass and we are so encouraged to see them come back in gratitude sharing about the wonderful answers to prayer they have experienced.

It says in Scripture that without a Vision the people perish.  So go buy both books and read them and ask the Lord to show you His vision for your Parish. If your parish is interested in learning more details about these initiatives in our parish, please don't hesitate to contact us.at johnstownparish@gmail.com

Philippians 4:5-7: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

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