Alex Lee Hoy
Fr. Sathi Anthony first heard Fr. James speak at an annual priest retreat in May of 2016. After reading the book, attending the DR 2016 Conference in Halifax, and joining group coaching, Fr. Sathi felt energized, it “gave me a lot of help and hope for the parish.”
When Fr. Sathi first arrived at St. John the Baptist in Estevan, Saskatchewan in 2020 there were 39 people serving in ministries. They now have over 200 people evangelizing in new and revived ministries.
The parish leaders at St. John the Baptist are clear about the changes that have taken place since focusing on parish renewal and applying Divine Renovation’s 3 keys.
Maureen, Parish Chairperson, reflects on some of the changes. She recalls we are a “rural community and things have been the same for so long… when Father came it was the Holy Spirit at work. We were ready and hungry and wanting to do more and in essence to feed our people… we’re definitely on a journey and we’ve experienced a lot of goodness by the grace of God.”
Gwen adds that “when we shifted to a team approach it changed what the roles were and we had permission… the ability to have permission to just do it.”
Mo articulates how Fr. Sathi leads out of a leadership team. “He has empowered us to do things. Those things that are sometimes buried inside of you… bringing them to a pastoral place and flourishing.” Mo continues, it has been good for the team to go “through the process of building trust and using all of these amazing resources [from DR] for our benefit which in turn then benefits our people and building the Kingdom of God here.”
Gary, the former Mayor of Estevan, who has been a part of the parish since 1980 states, “I think a lot of us maybe had been in a rut, too, in a lot of ways. You know you get into a comfortable path and follow that.”
Gary notes the change in the parish culture for young families at Mass, “I’m responsible myself. We had a lot of people like me…who looked at kids and gave them that dirty look… and we heard that it had an effect on a lot of young families… they didn’t feel comfortable bringing their kids… And now it’s changed a lot, we seem to have a much greater atmosphere in the church… you now see nice smiles on the faces of people and I think that’s a big thing .”
Patrick, who oversees communications, also notes his experience as a new father of twin girls “Even before they were born, Father preached about making sure, you know, if kids are crying you don’t do the eye roll, but when you become a parent and suddenly now they’re crying and you don’t have everyone staring at you like why aren’t your kids being quiet – it does make a big difference.”
It is no coincidence that the culture of welcoming young families has been part of the reason the parish now has 37 young altar servers.
They also have a funeral care team as Connie noted “We’ve had many people come back to church after having their loved one’s funeral celebrated here and they hadn’t been in church for a long time… Annually we do a really special all souls Mass. Where we invite back all the families that have had somebody pass away in the last year. We recognize them by name in the church and their families come up and light a candle for them.”
There were many initiatives that the team took such as new communications run by Patrick and outreach. Gwen talked about a team of 10 people that would “come in and call every single person calling everyone over the age of 70.” She also noted that this still takes place. Mo shared, “A huge part of it is also personal invitation… it’s using your gift or talent in a meaningful way and giving back to your community and giving back to God and we changed.”
The changes in the parish are being noticed and supported widely as Fr. Sathi shares, “Our Bishop asked us to do a session for all the priests of the Diocese. We did a full day session for all the priests and deacons of the diocese, and it was very well received. We are planning on to expand some of the things that we do to share with other parishes.”