By Mary Catherine Machalec
Special to The Texas Catholic
COPPELL —A heat wave wasn’t the only thing that arrived in Dallas this past July. St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell also hosted the first-ever Divine Renovation Conference, in which more than 600 people traveled to the Diocese of Dallas from around the world to learn how to renew and revitalize their parishes.
“We truly saw the global church present here in the diocese of Dallas. Attendees came from Germany, Austria, Mexico, Australia, Canada, and the UK, as well as over 140 different parishes from across the United States,” said Kurt Klement, who serves as the executive director of Divine Renovation in the United States. “The goal was to have them experience the game-changing impact of pulling away from the business of parish life to be inspired for what is possible, to be filled with new hope.”
Catholic churches across the United States have seen decreasing attendance, the number of those who identify as “nones” with no religious affiliation make up a quarter of the population and in some dioceses parish mergers — consolidating several parishes into one — are becoming more common.
Divine Renovation positions itself as a global ministry that exists to fight these growing trends and help parishes live out the Great Commission. The ministry offers support to priests and their staffs through coaching programs, webinars, books, conferences and retreats.
More than 130 priests attended the conference, including Father John Larochelle, who started his first assignment as pastor in the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts only two weeks before the conference.
“The first two weeks of being a pastor there was a lot of running around, putting out fires, everything was task-oriented,” Father Larochelle said. “This conference has given me the chance to step back and look at the big picture. It has filled me with clarity, purpose and passion for my parish and laid the foundation for the future.”
Representatives from several parishes across the Diocese of Dallas also attended the conference, including eight staff members from St. Francis of Assisi in Frisco. Amanda Graves, who oversees English evangelization at the parish, said she was “really moved” by her experience and learning about the role of the Holy Spirit in the journey of parish renewal.
“It can be easy to put down plans and strategies on paper and begin to implement them. The conference showed our team that we should first offer these ideas and goals to the Holy Spirit, and allow God to work in ways we may not have planned for,” said Graves. “Coming back from the conference, I want to take the time to offer our planning, strategy, and goals to the Holy Spirit on a daily basis and be open to the response.”