Renewing our Parishes

FROM THEOLOGY TODAY IN AD NEWS 1 OF 2023: The new PPC Statutes promulgated a year ago by Archbishop Brislin were intended to facilitate an implementation of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Plan (2019) at grassroots level. The defining aspect of these statutes is the promotion of a team of leaders in different pastoral portfolios at the parish level. The Parish Alive programme in the archdiocese, launched in November last year was intended to help new PPCs to fulfill the requirements of the new statutes.

Essentially what is intended is the renewal of parishes, so especially needed after the Covid-19 crisis. At the heart of this renewal will be the mobilization of lay leadership at the parish level; that is, the baptised exercising their gifts for the mission of the Church.

Basic to this engagement in mission will be the creation of missional parishes, parishes which engage in the core work of evangelization. Evangelization, which facilitates a life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ and his saving work in our lives, is the surest path to on-going discipleship. Those who are evangelised and are being evangelised want to be connected to other disciples and want to be involved. Those who are evangelized desire to engage with others who have also been evangelized, and disciples of Jesus make disciples of others. Evangelization instruments like Alpha or Sycamore, have a community-creating dimension and can at the same time be a leadership-pipeline or ministry-pipeline in our parishes.

Parish renewal will depend on the active engagement of many more people in our parishes. The syndrome of STP (the same ten people) engaged in parish ministries does not bode well for the overall sustainable health of a parish. So, how do we activate more parishioners for ministry, realizing that ministry is not just something we want from parishioners; it is something we want for parishioners?

Preliminary results from the Parish Culture Survey administered by the Centre for Pastoral Development indicate that those who are involved in our parishes want to do more and those not involved want to get involved. How we engage these people? The power of personal interactions and invitations cannot be overstated. Invitations borne of friendship and personal conversations are so much more effective than appeals for service in ministries from the lectern at Sunday Mass.

Those in leadership at all levels in parishes should be engaging in this process of succession and activating parishioners for ministry. To ask the Holy Spirit to “point out” to us those we encounter on a Sunday who could be approached and invited to participate more actively, is sound strategy. Those we get to know can be affirmed and invited and welcomed with a “I see in you …”, adding in the gifts which the person has, and which can serve in ministry.

In terms of ministry, we are looking for people who are Faithful, Available and Teachable. Even better, in terms of leadership, we also want people who are Contagious, people who have the capacity to influence others. In some programmes these qualities are summed up by FAT and FACT.

A good strategy would be to invest in new parishioners, those who have recently joined the parish for some reason or other, often because they are looking for some new dynamic and so will be open to making a contribution. Newly confirmed young adults and those completing the RCIA, are other good “sources” of ministers. The power of an active hospitality ministry in recognising, identifying, and recommending parishioners, new and old, cannot be overstated. Those responsible for faith-formation of young adults and RCIA candidates can be mobilized to invite those in their care for ministry. And instruments of evangelization, like Alpha, can be harnessed for a ministry and leadership pipeline.

Fr Zane Godwin
EV for Pastoral Development

Posted in Archdiocesan News.


  1. Hello FR Zane how you it was always nice to attend your mass when you come to the Little sisters in Manenberg

  2. 1. Value the Faithfuls who are unable to put R1 000 in an envelope but willingly give of their time and labour generously
    2. Don’t cherry pick your flock, as you do your Pastoral duties
    3. Don’t base your opinions and decisions on slander and parish gossip
    Take the risk and find the truth by listening to both sides of the story
    4. SPREAD: do we have the right to withhold the Good News from the I.D. Individuals.
    5. Show appreciation for the Faithful who have given generously to the parish over many years. Visit them when they are sick
    6. Put your career on hold and renew your Vocation
    7. Have the courage to walk your talk and others will follow in your footprints

  3. Good Day Father, I used to be active in church in the St Agnes Parish but moved areas due to health reasons and are now at the St Matthews Parish in Bonteheuwel. I would like to be discipled and learn and grow in my faith and relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ. I have joined various platforms online. How do I go about to keep on growing.

    God bless thank you

  4. I understand that the pastoral plans focused on empowering and evangelizing the laity – what is the role of the parish priest in this process?

    I cannot help but smile with fond remembrance of the late Archbishop Henry who wore a cap with the inscription “I am their leader, which way did they go?”

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