A little over a year ago, I sat frustrated at the fact that although I was leading a vibrant and alive youth ministry program in my parish. Once confirmed, many of our teens would slowly stop attending church within 2-3 years. We, as youth leaders, were building relationships with teens, but some would still leave after confirmation and I had realised that something wasn’t working. After a lot of prayer and difficult conversations with past teens, I realised that although they felt that they belonged in our youth ministry program, some didn’t always feel the same about church.
Sadly, it was something I too had experienced after confirmation, and I was struggling with the thought that perhaps this was the status quo for catholic life, that you drift but maybe eventually hopefully come back, or, that there was something that could be done.
Why Divine Renovation
During this time, my friend sent me a link to a talk by a Scottish priest living in Canada, and he was talking about the Holy Spirit, Alpha, and eventually about a book he’d written called Divine Renovation and how his parish in Canada had begun to change. 1 hour and 30 minutes later, I had hope.
I had hope that our parish could also begin to be a community that not only sought the lost, but welcomed them in. A community where a young person’s flame of faith would be fanned and not extinguished. A community where a relationship with Jesus was spoken about, witnessed to, and lived fully by all parishioners. And according to Fr James Mallon, Alpha was central to building a church community that lived that.
If I was not on this team, I would be in Durban counting down the weeks until the conference happened. I would be re-reading my book, and trying to find out how to get my hands on that “hard to find” guidebook!
I would be bursting at the seams at the realisation that in a few weeks, our beloved bishops, priests, deacons, and tired out leadership teams were about to gather and hear the story of dry bones coming to life in an obscure parish in Nova Scotia, Canada. And that maybe, just maybe, they would leave renewed in their spirit and mission as priests and lay people in ministry.
Fr James Mallon coming to South Africa, is not just another conference for us who have served in ministry in catholic churches. It is the first bursts of the Springtime of the Church that Pope John Paul spoke about. It is the New Evangelisation come to life. It is our parishes going from being keepers of aquariums, to fishers of men. And I could not be more excited!
“Even a very successful tool for evangelisation like Alpha will have a very limited impact if the values of a parish are vastly different from the values within a particular program” – Father James Mallon.
That is why Divine Renovation.