A Game Changer Event!!!: A reflection on last months Parish Vitality Conference
In hockey they say that goals change games. The same can be said of last month’s Parish Vitality Conference and the future direction of the Catholic Church of Montreal.
I had the great pleasure of representing the Pillars Trust at the Parish Vitality Conference held at Loyola High School on Nov 16 & 17, along with several board members (John Murphy, Michael Kieran, Mark Shalhoub, Mary Campbell, Michael Gentile, Fr Ray Lafontaine, Fr Luc Lantagne and Deacon Richard Brisebois). This is an event organized every two years by the Office of English Pastoral Services (OEPS) at the Archdiocese of Montreal, in partnership with the English Speaking Catholic Council (ESCC). The Pillars Trust is the primary financial sponsor for this event, which brought together not only members of our English Catholic community and visitors from outside our diocese, but for the first time also included many parish representatives from the Francophone and Cultural communities in Montreal. Inspired by Archbishop Lepine’s pastoral theme for this year, “Together on a Mission”, this edition of the Parish Vitality Conference was a true gathering of the universal church in Montreal.
From the Archdiocese of Montreal, there were parish representatives from 23 English, 12 French, and 5 Cultural parishes. From outside our diocese we also received visits from 3 English, 12 French, 8 non-parish groups. In total, this year’s conference was attended by over 350 people, compared to 270 participants from the 2016 conference.
More impressive then the statistics, however, were the reactions of the people who attended. Person after person who I spoke with at the conference felt a genuine sense of hope and renewed belief that the renewal of our church here in Quebec is possible. The key-note speaker, Fr James Mallon E.V. from the Archdiocese of Halifax (founder of the Divine Renovation Ministry) spoke passionately about the reasons why parish renewal is imperative, and on the principles of leadership necessary to make it happen. His message resonated with virtually everyone in attendance. In addition, Fr Michael Leclerc and his Senior Leadership Team from St Ignatius of Loyola parish provided a concrete example of what it looks like to lead a parish through a Divine Renovation during their panel interview.
I was also personally honored to have been invited to animate one of the afternoon workshops at the conference. I shared insights gathered from my first year and a half working as parish vitality facilitator. Through these discussions we began to articulate some concrete next steps for how to apply the fundamental principles taught at the conference with our respective parishes.
Although the conference is over, there remains a genuine buzz in the community and an opportunity for the Pillars Trust to continue to lead the way forward in this emerging movement towards greater vitality in all our parishes. On Saturday January 26, I will be joining the OEPS in leading a conference follow-up event to further equip our parishes with more practical tools to turn the enthusiasm they received from the conference into concrete action!
As we continue our Advent journey toward the celebration of our Lord’s Birth at Christmas, we invite all friends of the English Catholic community near and far to please consider renewing your support of parish vitality in Montreal by making a donation to the Pillars Trust. Every dollar we receive will continue to be invested right back into our English Catholic community through our many beneficiaries, making our community “Catholic Strong”!