A major conference on parish renewal featuring three international speakers and many quality workshops is being planned for Christchurch in November.

The Ablaze Parish Renewal Conference on November 10-11 will be held at St Mary’s Church, and City Church, Manchester St, in Christchurch.

The international speakers are Bishop Nicholas Hudson, auxiliary bishop for the diocese of Westminster in the UK; Daniel Ang, the director of evangelisation, diocese of Broken Bay, Australia; and Jan Heath, the founder of Evangelisation Resources Down Under, Brisbane and promoter of the Catholics Returning Home programme.

Bishop Hudson has responsibility for the pastoral care of central and east London and he also has oversight of the Agency for Evangelisation, Youth, and Justice and Peace.

The purpose of the conference is to provide tools and resources to help participants and parishes inflame the hearts of those who already come to church, learn how to reach those in the community who no longer come, and reach out to those who have never come.

The idea for such a conference came after several Christchurch diocese personnel attended the Proclaim Conference in Australia last year.

Christchurch diocese spokesman Mike Stopforth said that conference was organised by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and it provided quality keynote speakers and liturgies.

“The theme of ‘Parishes as an Oasis of Mercy’ provided renewed impetus and challenge to us about having parishes that are outward-focused in mission and being places that express mercy as Pope Francis is calling us to.

“Because of the experience of those of us from Christchurch who attended Proclaim, we wanted to provide a similar experience for the parish leaders of our diocese and therefore the Ablaze Conference has been organised.”

Mr Stopforth told NZ Catholic that 200 is the maximum number of people who can be at the conference, and this is due to the venue capacity.

“Christchurch is short of suitable venues for us to use as we wanted to use a facility that was suitable for a conference and close to a church for our prayer and liturgy,” Mr Stopforth said.

Registration is being targeted initially at key parish leaders in Christchurch diocese — for instance, priests, people on parish councils and/or parish finance committees, youth leaders, sacramental programme leaders, as well as school principals.

Mr Stopforth said that as of early September, 90 registrations had been received.

“There have been a number of people from other dioceses who have asked to attend, however we have at this stage only opened registrations to our parish leaders and school principals.

“If we have space after mid-September we will be opening up for general registration.”

They are also planning to livestream keynote speeches.

There will be more than 20 workshops at the conference, covering a wide range of topics related to parish renewal.

Among the workshops are:

“Inflaming the hearts of those who already come: Strategies and ideas from growing parishes” — Fr Michael Gielen, director of formation at Holy Cross Seminary.

“Evangelising in the Digital Age — The effective use of social media and parish communications” — David Mullin, project manager for the Catholic diocese of Palmerston North.

“Proclaiming the Gospel to a new Generation: Growing Youth and Young Adult Outreach in the parish” — Catholic Youth Team “Creating Evangelisation Teams in your Parish” — Bishop Nicholas Hudson.

“The Role of the Parish in Welcoming and Helping Non-Practising and Inactive Catholics Come Home” — Jan Heath and Fr Paul Shannahan, SM.

“The Importance of Prayer and the Holy Spirit for the Evangelising Parish,” Fr Allan Jones, SM. “Making Disciples of Our Children: The Role of Experience,” Fr Antoine Thomas, CSJ.

For more information, visit www.chchcatholic.nz/ ablaze

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