Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP’s vision for the future of Sydney Parishes, Go Make Disciples, has been embraced by a parish in New Zealand, in its desire to grow as a centre of faith and evangelisation.
Launched in December 2020, Go Make Disciples (GMD) was the fruit of some five years of conversation, research and discernment.
Since then, it has been the catalyst for evangelisation initiatives, formation opportunities, men’s and women’s networks, conferences and resources engaged by parishes, chaplaincies and other Eucharistic communities of Sydney.
In just three years, its influence has spread to other dioceses across Australia and now, a parish in the North Island of New Zealand.
In 2017, when New Zealand priest Fr Simon Story accepted a call to return to the parish he first served eight years earlier, the changes he saw shocked him.
“Most of the parishioners had gone. Huge numbers of people were no longer around,” Fr Simon said.
Once a booming parish made up of four independent parishes, Fr Simon was shocked to find his attendance numbers halved.
“My Parish was ‘asleep,” said Fr Simon.
He knew he had to act. On 27 November, the fruits of the six-year journey Fr Simon and his parish have taken since his return culminated in the launch of a new vision for his New Plymouth parish, inspired by Go Make Disciples.
This welcome connection between the two countries began when Fr Simon and a group from his parish accepted an invitation from the Sydney Centre of Evangelisation to the Divine Renovation parish renewal conference in February this year.
It sparked a fortuitous meeting with Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, Daniel Ang.
“It was an amazing conference. We knew of Daniel, and we’d heard of a document, his vision for the Sydney Archdiocese called Go Make Disciples.
And we were all aware in our parish that we needed to form a vision to wake them up,” said Fr Simon.
“This document, we thought, could lead the way, for us. It feels true to the teaching of the church.”
The five pillars within the GMD document—evangelisation, leadership, community, formation and worship –struck Fr Simon as suitable for his new vision.
“It stimulated our thinking. It was so comprehensive; we could spark off each other when reading the document and came up with so many different ideas,” he said.
We were then able to think about a future for ourselves, create a vision of what we could see happening in New Plymouth,” said Fr Simon.
“It inspired us to write the vision in the way we have now,” said Shanon Stallard, a passionate parish volunteer helping Fr Simon in his quest.
Fr Simon and Shanon visited the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation earlier in the year, and set about forming a vision for New Plymouth borrowing heavily from Go Make Disciples.
By next June they plan to develop the practical strategies to put their vision into practice.
While they recognise the long road ahead, they remain steadfast in their hopes that the vision and inspiration of Go Make Disciples will prove just as fruitful as it has in Sydney.
“You guys are really leading the way,” said Fr Simon.
“You’re putting something like that document together for all of us and saying here everyone, look at this. This is where we’re at and this is what we want to be seeing.”
“Any parish can do this, we’ve just seen a need for it, and we’ve just gone for it.
“It’s just so good to say we’ve got a vision and we’ve prayed to the Holy Spirit about this and it’s for us. It brings us all together going after some very tough years through the pandemic.
“It’s a broken-down community. Now we’ve got a big reason to come together and be unified behind a vision.”
Read New Plymouth’s GMD-inspired parish vision https://www.catholicparishnp.nz/assets/CPNP-Our-Vision-Booklet-v2.pdf