THE P RTAL November 2017 Page 9 Divine Renovation Fr Julian Green has been reading an interesting book T here has been a steady stream of books, over the past few years, mostly from across the other side of the Atlantic, which we might term ‘self help for failing parishes’. Mostly using quirky terminology unknown previously in the Catholic Church, they give formulas for making what Pope Francis has called ‘missionary disciples’. I’ve read most of these, and I was always left with mixed feelings. While I admire the missionary zeal, too often they seem to reflect a rather formulaic approach: do these things and put these things in place and the people will come flocking. But will they? It is all so automatic. One danger which I sense is the divisive nature of some of these projects. to where we are today appealed to my mind, where I had already worked out some of these relationships through conversations with other priests and those interested in the New Evangelisation previously. Last week, together with 300 other delegates, I was able to meet Fr Mallon and his team at the Divine Renovation conference Maintenance to Mission at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. While very good on paper, add a little broken human nature and it can be self-conscious disciples looking down It was marvellous to see people I on the hoi polloi of the parish, creating have known through movements such two tiers of membership. Furthermore, as Youth 2000, and other contexts, sometimes it feels as if we’d be able come together for this conference. It to benefit from the wisdom of such self-help only really felt like the New Evangelisation coming of age. when we have ‘staff ’, but with small and diminishing It was exciting to see so many people from around the parishes that seems like a distant prospect. country so interested in and committed to bringing about a change in our pastoral scene. Having consumed a few of these books, I was urged, just over a year ago, to read another. The front cover At the heart of the Divine Renovation initiative is not proclaimed a similar message: taking your parish from any specific programme or strategy, however much the maintenance to mission. But once inside, I read it with Catholic use of the Alpha course is associated with it. great interest, for this book was written by a Parish Fundamentally, it is about changing the culture of our Priest whose experience seemed to have so much in parishes. That is, changing the mentality from one common with my own. where the keeping of the Catholic Faith gives way to one of making disciples for Christ. It is a bold project. Fr James Mallon begins his book Divine Renovation But it is a necessary transformation which needs to with a flavour of his battle with uniformed organisations occur in every Catholic community that wishes to and social groups to regain control of his parish have a future rather than just a history. facilities so as to be able to turn them to the service of I hope I speak for all those who participated in last the primary function of the Church: the proclamation of the Gospel. This rang true as the experience of a real month’s conference when I say that I feel particularly Parish Priest in a real parish that sounds like any one energised by not only the work of Fr Mallon, but even by the seemingly insuperable challenges which of our parishes. statistics about our parishes and communities tell Often, when I read of renewed parishes I think they us is happening. I wholeheartedly recommend to sound so unreal, so unlike my own situation. But Fr everyone who takes seriously the call to evangelise Mallon seemed to know what it was like to come into and the position of the Catholic Church as the a small or medium sized parish and to transform it. instrument of God to bring the fullness of truth and Alongside this, a really well considered theological the means of salvation to people today, to come to appreciation of the combination of Pelagianism, know the work of Fr James Mallon. Reading a book Clericalism and Jansenism which has helped to get us will only be the start!