Parish Alive – the way forward for Parishes


On the 26th January Father Zane Godwin and I held a Zoom session for parish priests and PPC chairpersons. We asked them to complete a quick survey to see how far down the Parish Alive road they had journeyed. The survey covered four areas:

1. Setting a parish vision 
2. Appointment of portfolio co-ordinators
3. Appointment of team leaders in the portfolios, and 
4. Setting up team strategies

The results were very encouraging, as most of the respondents had progressed well in these four areas.

At this session we emphasised that the very first step in beginning the Parish Alive journey is to hold a PPC Strategy session. At this session we suggest you begin defining your parish vision; finalise the PPC structure by selecting the portfolio co-ordinators and agree on the purpose of each portfolio. The co-ordinators then need to select their teams and team leaders.

The second step would be for each portfolio co-ordinator to hold sessions with all the team leaders and team members in that portfolio to set up their team strategies. These strategies consist of identifying objectives, action plans and a budget for each team. These strategies are then presented to the PPC for approval. The agenda of PPC meetings should be adapted to include brief progress reports from each portfolio co-ordinator on these plans. One of the benefits of this is that the REAL issues will be discussed by the PPC, and discussions around non-essential items (such as the hot water urn) will be avoided.

Suggested agendas for these sessions can be found on the Parish Alive page on the Archdiocesan website:


Our focus so far has been on assisting parishes to establish the first three of the five organisational pillars (Vision; Structure; Strategy), as these will enable the PPC to implement the six activities in order to put the Missionary Mandate into action. 

We are of the opinion that it will be far easier to set up and sustain the Missionary Mandate activities once the portfolios and teams are in place, as each of these activities will be overseen by one or more of the portfolio co-ordinators.  

But there is nothing stopping a parish from implementing these Missionary Mandate activities at any time that seems appropriate. For example, many parishes have taken part in the Alpha programmes that have been run by the Centre for Pastoral Development. The Alpha programme fits in the “Introductory programmes to the Christian faith” activity, and apart from the spiritual benefit obtained, it helps the parish leadership to identify potential leaders.


I read an interesting article called “The ‘STP’ is Hurting Attemps at Parish Renewal” by Patrick Sullivan. 

In the article STP stands for the Same Ten People, and he makes the observation that all of us are very aware of — that very few people in a parish are involved in leading, organizing or doing.

The main aim of the Parish Alive initiative is to assist parishes to achieve their missionary mandate – to “Go Make Disciples”, but one of the main outcomes of this initiative will be that many more people will be actively involved in the life of the parish. Do the maths – seven portfolio co-ordinators; approximately 25 team leaders spread amongst these portfolios. Assuming that we have just two members in each team, that gives us 50 team members. 7+25+50 = 82. 82 people actively leading and driving the parish forward under the guidance of the parish priest. Not forgetting the other PPC members.

WOW, wouldn’t that be amazing! What a wonderful side effect that would be.

Now multiply that by the 75 parishes in our Archdiocese and we have 6150 Catholics in greater Cape Town reaching into every corner of our communities. 

These numbers may be optimistic, but irrespective of how many people are involved in a parish – and we are starting to see more involvement occurring – something happens when a team of people get together to agree on their vision or purpose and agree on what they will do to achieve this purpose.

This “team effect” will occur at various levels. Firstly, at PPC level, when they meet to set up the overall parish strategy. Then at portfolio level, when the portfolio co-ordinator meets with each team leader and the various team members to set up their individual strategies.


Every parish is unique and only you can decide, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, how fast or slow you need to proceed. Rather take small steps and make steady, sustainable progress.


There is a very motivated Parish Alive Support Team already in place assisting parishes on this journey and we encourage you to contact us if you need any help. 

We would love to hear of your experiences while on this journey, so if you have any items of interest please tell us about them. We would also appreciate news of what worked well and what could be improved so that we could share these experiences with other parishes.

Nick Bickell
Leadership Support
Parish Alive Support Team

Posted in Archdiocesan News.

One Comment

  1. All well & good. However–the inevitable ‘however’–the question arises: what do the parish as a whole think & what do they expect? My sense is that we do need to discover this so as to be in a position to ‘speak’ directly and authentically to the parish as it currently is in its particularity. An analogy: you cannot hit the target if you are unsure of where it is.

    I may have overlooked this aspect of the proposals and would appreciate direction.

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