A little more than one year on from the launch of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth’s biggest plan aimed at bringing the community together, the task of strengthening and revitalising parishes with a sense of empowering passion is well underway.

In an interview with The eRecord, coordinator for Strengthening and Revitalising Parishes Father Nino Vinciguerra discusses the strategies and actions in place to create Catholic communities that are welcoming and inviting, work in synergy with each other and discern what God wants us to do.

Keen to be a key contributor to this plan, Fr Vinciguerra said that like many priests, parish work is what they are trained for.

“We are constantly looking at empowering the parish we are responsible for and want to make a difference. We want the parish to be alive and vibrant, it is a natural desire as a priest.

“However, we have parishes working in silos; committed and very capable, but not all parishes know what the other is doing.

“So the plan is to bring us all together to work in collaboration and discern what God wants us to do,” Fr Vinciguerra said.

Working with a very committed Parish Implementation Group, Fr Vinciguerra said while progress is slow, the committee has developed a three-stage process for parish renewal with the first stage already implemented.

“The first phase of the strategy was getting new tools; in this case, firstly the constitution. So we renewed the constitution for the parish pastoral council because, we wanted to get the conversation going and get them interested in this whole process. Secondly, the priest and his parish pastoral council was key, we had to get them on board.”

While the main aim of the constitution is about collaboration for discernment – working together and discerning what God wants us to do – Fr Vinciguerra said that through this constitution, parishes will work together, but still act independently of each other, even though they are all part of an Archdiocese.
“The constitution must adhere to look at what God wants us to do,” he said.

He also added that as part of stage one, they are also working on creating a handbook for the Parish Pastoral Council, which is a more in-depth workbook that will explore all the essential elements of the constitution.

“The constitution will act as the foundation while the handbook will build and expand on it with more practical information. This will go to all the parishes in the Archdiocese, once implemented,” he said.

While stage two of the plan will look at using these tools as a basis for faith formation and skills training for priests and their parish pastoral councils, Fr Vinciguerra said that they are key elements in the renewal of the parish.

“Stage three will be the working of the actual plan – a pilot project that will bring four or five parishes together to assist each other to examine the pastoral plan and to discern how each parish will respond in its own way,” he added.

The pilot will run simultaneously in two groups of four or five parishes in the North and South of the Archdiocese, Fr Vinciguerra said and will bring parishes just starting up together with established parishes working together on one particular pastoral issue.

“Each parish will have their own way of working with this particular pastoral issue and will try to support each other with the various resources they can each bring to the table.

“I am very confident that when the parishes comes together to collaborate, I think they will really surprise us. Some of the parish priests are very creative. You go to some of the parish pastoral councils and you find some really competent and very willing people,” Fr Vinciguerra added.

While the leadership for this pilot will be handed over to the parish priest, assistant parish priest and the parish pastoral council, parishes will have to collaborate and work with each other, he said.

“We will walk with them and offer resources but they will be on their own, and amongst each other in the pilot.”

He also went on to say that following the second Vatican council that demands for parishes to collaborate together, the plan is not about merging parishes.

“The three phases are not about that. With stage one already in place, stages two and three are in their planning phases and the pilot will commence in 2018,” he said.

This paradigm of collaborating together to discern God wants us to be doing, Fr Vinciguerra reiterated that they will still be working independently but collaborating with each other.

“They will not be competing; we are not comparing, we are supporting each other. Stage three is something new, its ground breaking and as the saying goes, we have to learn to crawl before we walk.

“It’s all about small steps that are strategic, towards a long-term goal and we are doing it together with God. And we have discerned what God wants us to do,” he concluded.