Among the 17 workshops being offered at the November 10-12 conference, Fr. Michael Leclerc will be sharing what he learned from his experience with the Divine Renovation program.
About a year ago, Bishop Tom Dowd approached me with the possibility of doing a six-month intern-ship at St. Benedict Parish in Halifax with Fr. James Mallon. At that point, I had heard of Fr. Mallon but had not yet read his book on parish renewal, Divine Renovation. I spent the next week or two reading the book and watching a few talks given by Fr. Mallon. I was intrigued, and a great deal of what he was advocating rang true with me, so I gladly accepted, eager to learn more.
Having now returned from St. Benedict - a parish full of life and where the Holy Spirit is actively at work among the people - I now know that parish renewal is not merely a pipe dream. It is possible, and more im-portantly, I am convinced that God desires healthy growing parishes even more than we desire it ourselves.
Jesus said "go and bear fruit-fruit that will last" (Jn 15:16). I had seen my role as a parish priest as encouraging everyone to sow seeds, hop-ing some of those seeds would sprout into renewed or growing faith. Yet, Christ wants us to bear fruit, not simply to sow seeds willy-nilly. That requires intentionality in what parishes do, making sure that every aspect of parish life aligns itself to the same goal of bearing fruit, of bringing people to an authen-tic encounter with the living God. A parish's worship, ministry, faith education, community life and evangelization efforts, all have to work hand-in-hand toward the same mission. When that happens, parish renewal hap-pens.
St. Paul says that while it is God who causes the growth, to allow for that growth "those who plant and those who water need to be united... For we are, in fact, God's co-workers" (cf. 1 Cor 3:8-9). In re-turning to my pastorship at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Montreal, my focus is on building a parish full of God's co-workers. I also hope to share some of the principles and processes that I learnt in Divine Renovation at the Parish Vitality Conference this November and perhaps, most im-portantly, share the hope that our parishes can lead the renewal of our Church.
Fr. Michael Leclerc