Parish Renewal


The Necessity for Renewal
The parish remains the primary experience of Church for many Catholics and, as Pope Francis has affirmed, ‘is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.’ (Evangelii Gaudium 28).

There is much to celebrate in our local communities of faith – the commitment of our leaders, ordained and lay, various forms of pastoral activity and outreach, the living faith that makes these communities a true spiritual home. However, we are conscious too of the challenges that face our parishes. The most recent 2016 census in Australia saw a decline in the number of people identifying as Catholic from 25.3% in 2011 to 22.6% in 2016; whilst the ‘no religion’ category rose to 30.1%. Many today question the relevance of religion and faith and participation rates in many parishes in Australia are declining.

As Catholics, we are called to meet these challenges with the Good News, that is the Gospel, with joy and passion in our times so that we and those we encounter might be transformed by our welcome, witness, proclamation and spiritual accompaniment.

We hold that Christian faith is first and foremost a response to God, specifically an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ who offers fullness of life, healing and hope for all. We uphold the local community of the parish as a privileged venue for this encounter, a centre of missionary discipleship in which Christ is encountered in God’s Word, Eucharist and a pilgrim people of faith. The parish supports growth in the Christian life, is an environment for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration and is called to constant missionary outreach.

Moving Towards a Missionary Parish
Mission Broken Bay works together with parishes, parish pastoral councils, parish teams, ministry groups and faith communities to begin to move towards a more missionary way of being which is faithful to the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).

One parish that has implemented new ways of communicating the person of Jesus to our culture is St Benedict’s Parish, Halifax Nova Scotia in Canada, as described by Fr James Mallon in his influential book Divine Renovation.

The Good News of Christ is placed at the centre of parish life and the parish’s main priority is to share this news not only with those who are within the Church but the unchurched and lost. Parishes become invitational so that people are invited into a personal relationship with Christ that, through the Holy Spirit, is transformational for them and revitalises their faith. Meaningful community is formed through small groups, and faith formation is given priority, with parishioners all invited to then share their gifts in active ministry. Ultimately a parish moves from ‘maintenance mode’, in which it exists for those who are already there, to ‘mission mode’ when it recalls its core purpose or identity to outreach to all, bringing the joy of the Good News to a world that urgently needs healing and hope. This involves the transformation of parish culture, so that all that the parish is and does is oriented toward personal and spiritual change in the person and message of Jesus.

Mission Broken Bay offers support in setting parish vision for this culture of evangelisation, parish planning for renewal and discipleship, support for processes and formation in evangelisation, including support for Alpha and other forms of outreach; in building community using small groups; and in looking at ways to create more vibrant liturgies, including hospitality.

Below are some useful resources and links, to further encourage your reflection and to take steps toward parish renewal:

Sherry Weddell Resources

 fid pic Forming Intentional Disciples 
by Sherry Weddell
This book provides parishes and individuals with a foundation on which to build a new formation process that establishes a relationship with God. Ultimately, every person can become a true disciple of God, leading to a profound change in the individual and the parish, creating a vibrant and active faith community. 
 fid parish pic Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples
by Sherry Weddell
In this book, Sherry Weddell has gathered fellow Church workers whose years of service in parish ministry have yielded hard-earned wisdom and enthusiasm for the work of transforming Catholic parishes into lively, faithful centers of apostolic outreach. 
 fid fruitful pic Fruitful Discipleship
by Sherry Weddell
As faith-filled Catholics, we are called to go out and spread the good news of the Gospel, build up the Church, and fuel its mission. We are supernaturally empowered by God to do this through the charisms we receive at Baptism. Learn about each charism, what they are, and how discipleship unleashes these powerful gifts to produce fruit that lasts.
 siena Catherine of Siena institute

Co-founded by Sherry Weddell, the Catherine of Siena Institute seeks to equip parishes to form Lay Apostles. The 'Called and Gifted' discernment process is offered to help people recognise the charisms given to them at Baptism to equip them to live out their call in the world.

Divine Renovation Resources

 DR book pic Divine Renovation- Bringing your Parish from Maintenance to Mission 
by Fr James Mallon
An inspirational book that shares many practical suggestions for building a vibrant, Christ-centred community of disciples. This text guides parishes to rethink our current models of parish life. Fr James Mallon uses humorous and colourful stories to share his experience of parish renewal.
 DR reading guide The Divine Renovation Group Reading Guide
by Bill Huebsch
A 6-session reading guide to accompany the Divine Renovation book by Fr James Mallon. Includes questions and discussion points.
 DR guidebook Divine Renovation Guidebook: A Step-by-Step Manual for Transforming Your Parish 
by Fr James Mallon
This is a companion volume that offers step-by-step tools, charts and graphics to lead parishes through the process of transforming their parish. 
 dr apprentice Divine Renovation Apprentice: Learning to Lead a Disciple-Making Parish 
by Fr Simon Lobo, CC
Fr. Simon Lobo speaks about his experience as an associate pastor working on the renewal of St. Benedict Parish. He offers personal reflections and practical wisdom for anyone who wants to see their parish experience new life. 
  DR unlocking  Unlocking Your Parish: Making Disciples, Raising Up Leaders with Alpha 
by Ron Huntley & Fr James Mallon
A book to help understand the role of Alpha to guide Catholic parishes in becoming communities of missionary disciples. This book aims to show how any Catholic parish can become a vibrant, mission-focused community. 


   beyond the parish cover Beyond the Parish 
by Fr James Mallon
Grounded in Scripture and Sacred Tradition, Fr James Mallon offers an analysis of the challenges the Church is facing, along with practical tools that will support parish and diocesan leaders in bringing about significant renewal.


 DR podcast pic Divine Renovation Podcast 
Stay in touch with this weekly podcast which discusses different aspects of parish renewal with key leaders from St Benedict's Parish, including Fr James Mallon, Ron Huntley and Dan O'Rourke.  
 DR network pic Divine Renovation Network
Subscribe to the Divine Renovation Network to gain access to a video library of content created by the Divine Renovation coaches, who speak into key issues which every parish face. This allows pastors, preiests and lay leaders to implement Divine Renovation principles at their own pace. 
 DR website pic Divine Renovation Website
For further details about all of the above, please visit the Divine Renovation website at  

Fr James Mallon Presentations


Fr James Mallon wrote the book Divine Renovation, and speaks from his experience at St Benedict Parish in Halifax, Canada, in moving the parish towards a more evangelising and missionary outlook. He was in Australia in November 2016. 

A series of videos of Fr Mallon's talks in the Archdiocese of Brisbane is available on the link below.

Session 1: What does it look like to be a missionary parish community?
Session 2 A: What is needed to transform the culture of the Parish? 
Session 2 B: Naming the 10 building blocks 
Session 3: Becoming an Inviting Church 
Session 4: Forum - So What?

View the Archdiocese of Brisbane videos

Fr James Mallon's presentation in the Archdiocese of Melbourne:

View the Archdiocese of Melbourne video

Interview with Fr James Mallon - a series of 5 short videos:

Part 1: Crisis of Identity
Part 2: Leadership and Vision
Part 3: Forming a Leadership Team
Part 4: The Importance of Culture
Part 5: The Role of the Holy Spirit 

Proclaim 2016 Resources

proclaim_logo_2016_200x200Over three energising days in September 2016 over 520 delegates came together in Chatswood, NSW, to share insights and exchange best practices on parish evangelisation. PROCLAIM 2016 was hosted and organised by the Office for Evangelisation, Diocese of Broken Bay, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

To support the ongoing mission of our parishes, the following resources are available: 

  • A parish resource including keynotes from PROCLAIM 2016 and supplemented with reflection questions to support local discussion and implementation of the insights of the Conference. Select workshops to provide additional resources, covering themes such as parish engagement, the best practices in parish evangelisation drawn from Australian research, and the formation of evangelisation teams.
  • Videos and audio presentations of Keynotes and Workshops

PROCLAIM 2016 Parish Resource

Videos of the Keynote Presentations

Audio of the Keynotes and Workshops

National Centre for Pastoral Research

NCPR-Logo-for-screensThe National Centre for Pastoral Research is an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference which has responsibility for Coordinating Catholic participation in the National Church Life Surveys; carrying out the National Catholic Census Project; carrying out and reporting the results of the National Count of Attendance; and providing research and pastoral planning consultancy services to dioceses and Catholic agencies.

The NCPR produces a number of reports including Catholic Social Profiles based on the Census data; and a newsletter is also available.

Visit the National Centre for Pastoral Research Website

Building Stronger Parishes

Dr Trudy Dantis draws on her research into factors that lead to parish vitality to provide Australian case studies with down-to-earth examples of what can be achieved in eight key areas that lead to stronger parishes: planning, spirituality and faith formation, liturgy, community building, welcoming and hospitality, outreach, evangelisation and leadership.

The handbook is now available for purchase from Garratt Publishing.


Visit the Building Stronger Parishes Website

The Amazing Parish

This website aims at helping Catholic leaders build amazing parishes based on the building blocks of:

A Reliance on Prayer and the Sacraments
A Commitment to a Healthy Organization
A Passion for Evangelization and Discipleship

The website contains a wealth of resources.


Visit the Amazing Parish website