This weekend I continue my latest message series called the GAME PLAN as an opportunity to share how we as a family of parishes will seek to change and transform into a brighter and warmer light of hope, joy, peace and love in our world—showing that Jesus is truly risen and active in our world today.  There is no question that in order for us to be relevant, impactful and effective in the post-pandemic world, we definitely need to review, revise, adapt and change how we translate the Good News for the world to hear and experience.  We have been hearing this from the Church in various ways.


(1) Pope Francis spoke about the importance of parishes and how they can adapt for the sake of the Gospel in his Apostolic Exhortation called the “JOY OF THE GOSPEL”:

The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of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.  While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the minds of the homes of her sons and daughters.” (#28)

(2) The Congregation of the Clergy recently produced a document in July 2020 called “The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the Service of the Evangelising Mission of the Church” where it highlights the need for parishes to change so that it may most powerfully encounter society today.

In virtue of this discernment, the Parish is called to read the signs of the times, while adapting both to the needs of the faithful and to historical changes.  A renewed vitality is required that favours the rediscovery of the vocation of the baptised as a disciple of Jesus and a missionary of the Gospel…” (#11)

The conversion of structures, which the Church must undertake, requires a significant change in mentality and an interior renewal, especially among those entrusted with the responsibility of pastoral leadership.  In order to remain faithful to the mandate of Christ, pastors, especially Parish Priests who ‘are co-workers of the bishop in a very special way’ must resolutely grasp the need for a missionary reform of pastoral action.” (#35)

We as a family of parishes will require a spiritual conversion that shifts our Church culture from maintenance (trying to hang on to what we have) to mission (changing to most effectively share the Good News).  This is not an easy task and the GAME PLAN message series (which will have a sequel this fall) will help explain how we will do this.

(3) Bishop Fabbro is calling us as a diocese to become missionary disciples who find creative and unique ways to live and share the Gospel.  In this way, we will show the need, importance and value of our parish communities.  In the spring 2019 edition of Missio (the Diocese of London Newspaper) Bishop Fabbro wrote:

If we want different results, if we want to stem the decline in our parishes, we have to do things differently.  We have to change.  The vision guiding us through the changes we have to make comes from the Great Commission that Jesus gave the disciples: Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them (Mt 28:19-20).  Our mission is to go forth and make disciples of Jesus.”

As we continue to develop, grow and adapt the “family of parishes” model so that we can be a bright light of hope not only for Catholics in Chatham, but for all the people in our city, we will need the help of everyone in the faith community.  Guided by the Holy Spirit we will make the required and difficult decisions so we thrive and grow.  We want our family of parishes to be a “second home” where everyone is welcomed, loved, healed and empowered by the grace of Christ.  In the article titled “Family of Parishes — Phase 2” found in the Spring 2019 edition of Missio, Bishop Fabbro states:

If we are open to the Holy Spirit, then things will have to change.  But, what will not change is our desire to live as disciples of Jesus.  During this time of transition, pastors, pastoral teams, and the diocesan staff will focus on the mission of the Church and the needs of our parishioners.  We will continue to call on the gifts of the faithful to join us in this work.”   There is more information to come and opportunities for us to journey together.