“A member of the lay faithful can never remain in isolation from the community, but must live in a continual interaction with others … They are treasures that complement one another for the good of all” – Pope John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 20.

As we approach the midway point of the Archdiocesan Plan 2016-2021, most of the strategies in the realm of Strengthening and Revitalising Parishes are in progress or have already reached completion.

Strengthening and Revitalising Parishes Co-ordinator Father Nino Vinciguerra, said great progress has been made in the priority area of the Plan, as exemplified by two trial north and south of the river parish hubs.

“Both have engaged in a number of common programs and pastoral issues, and have experienced the support of working together,” he said.

Importantly, the parish renewal team is also in contact with the Archdiocese’s country parishes, while visitation and consultation are underway.

In his conversations with laity throughout the Archdiocese of Perth, Fr Nino encourages parishes to continue supporting one another.

He commented that he has noticed a broad readiness to embrace the vision of the Plan, a vision for parish renewal that promotes a unique collaborative pastoral model of practice.

“Following the earlier launch of the revised Constitution for Parish Pastoral Councils, we now also have a new parish renewal website to facilitate formation of parish leadership, and provides a range of resources for parishes in their quest to bring about rejuvenation. This is the result of work undertaken by the parish renewal team with parishes.”

The principle of a collaborative pastoral practice begins with meaningful engagement with others, he said.

“It promotes the working together of parishes and Archdiocesan agencies and organisations, using their combined gifts and talents to achieve shared goals. This collaboration, with its sharing of resources, enables the Archdiocese to function more efficiently and effectively,” Fr Vinciguerra continued.

“At the same time the individuality of parishes must also be respected because it is a wonderful source of creativity and of new ideas in pastoral practice. Collaborating though, gives us the opportunity to be exposed to these invaluable insights.”

The aspect of collaborative pastoral practice is core to parish renewal as it encourages a shift of perspective.

“A collaborative pastoral practice model asks individuals to reflect not only on ‘What do I need to do in my personal life to be a good Christian? What does my parish need to do?’ he said.

“But it inspires a thinking that is immersed in a parish community that embraces and is itself embraced by the whole Archdiocese.”

Fr Vinciguerra explained to The Record that the mindset – that we are all called to be missionary disciples – is one dear to the heart of Pope Francis.

“While there is so much that needs to be done to maintain the basic structure of a parish, the Gospel imperative is always, maintenance for mission.

“Christ gathers and cares for us, so that through us, all others, especially the lost, those on the margins of life might also know the goodness of the Shepherd,” he added.

“However, as we know, the ‘devil is always in the detail’, and parish clergy are especially conscious of the difficulties in implementing change. An important element in the collaborative model, is the awareness of the benefits of sharing the parish workload.”

Fr Vinciguerra said it is a model that asks us to “work differently” rather than “work more”.

“Jesus clearly teaches that we are all branches of the one vine. When we realise this in our pastoral practise, Jesus promises not only fruit, but fruit in abundance. Conversely, cut off from Jesus and therefore from each other, we can do nothing, certainly nothing that will last.”

This teaching of Jesus was the central theology of the Second Vatican Council, as Archbishop Timothy Costelloe reminded those present at the launch of the revised constitution for Parish Pastoral Councils at St Mary’s Cathedral on 31 July.

Both the constitution and extensive handbook are located in a new website dedicated to parish renewal and to the formation of parish leadership.

“The extensive consultations conducted with parishes have helped produce these very practical resources,” Fr Vinciguerra explained.

“There has also been consultation with some interstate dioceses, and they too have expressed keen interest in seeing our resources.”