From Maintenance to Mission

            In 2014, Fr. James Mallon published Divine Renovation.  The book describes how a parish that is stuck in maintaining the status quo can move to one centered on forming parishioners into missionary disciples.  (Twenty-Third Publications, New London, CT)  At the time, he was the pastor of Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  It was an immediate success.


Stirring Up Interest

            The Divine Renovation process can be summarized in three words: Bringing – Forming – Sending.  This is spelled out in the parish vision statement: “Saint Benedict Parish is a healthy and growing faith community that brings people to Christ, forms disciples and sends them out to transform the world.  Every member is committed to worship, to grow, to connect and to give.” (p. 252)  In his book, Fr. Mallon used the image of a bus to explain this vision.  “The Church of God is missional.  It is like a bus that is designed to go. When a pastor starts the engine and calls ‘all aboard,’ those who receive the invitation must be told where the bus is going.  [It is] a process of inspiring and winning people over to be part of something wonderful.” (p. 254)  He went on to say, “Vision is communicated when people’s imaginations are captured.  My favorite words when speaking about vision are ‘Imagine if. . .’  Imagine if this was a parish that became a place where everyone was loved and accepted.  Imagine if this was a parish where all parishioners shared their gifts and talents for the work of ministry.  Imagine how our community and our city would be transformed.” (p. 257)


Forming a Network

            This is what happened at Saint Benedict.  “Could something similar be done in other parishes?” they asked.  “Yes, it can,” was their answer.  Their first step was to form the Divine Renovation Network that, among other resources, provided personal coaching to other pastors and parishes.  Not that these places duplicate the Saint Benedict model, but are helped to discover their own potential in forming missionary disciples among their parishioners.  

            In June of 2016, the parish hosted a Divine Renovation Conference.  Six hundred people from eleven countries showed up for two days of presentations and workshops covering such topics as Liturgy, Hospitality, Sacraments, Discipleship, Evangelization and Leadership.  One parish that attended was St. Ann Parish in Coppell, Texas.  The experience changed their way of viewing parish and its way of operating.  As Kurt Klement, the Director of Evangelization, put it, “After reading the book, the next major step occurred when a team of key leaders, along with our pastor, Fr. Henry Petter, attended the Divine Renovation Conference in 2016.  That was a massive shift as our lead team was able to actually see and experience the fruitfulness of Saint Benedict Parish.  Following the Conference we applied and were accepted into the Divine Renovation Network.  The Divine Renovation team is committed to the parishes in the Network through coaching sessions, webinars and leadership sessions.”  St. Ann’s is now in its second year as members of the DR Network. 

            The Divine Renovation Ministry and Saint Benedict in Halifax are committed to spreading the word and expanding the Network. A second conference is being planned for June, 2018.  Already 500 participants have signed up.  (See