New Life and a Fresh Heart: A Letter From the UK

Hannah and Matt hiking on Haystacks Mountain, Lake District, UK

“You are not alone — your parish is part of a vast network of NEW LIFE…Keep going — we are walking alongside you too.”

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce and Matt Regitz | June 13th, 2022

Dear Friends,

Divine Renovation UK undertook a mission last month that was unlike anything we had ever done before. Over two weeks, I travelled together with Matt Regitz (Divine Renovation Leadership Coach) the length and breadth of the UK, visiting parishes, meeting with priests and bishops, and hosting and speaking at events.

It is a trip we will remember forever.

“I have coached parish priests all over the world, but until this trip I have never met the six UK priests in person that I get to walk alongside. Sitting down in the flesh without technology was a game changer for me — and my own formation as a coach — and, I believe, for our partnership in renewal.” – Matt

Over the last two years, our ministry has offered our coaching and events almost completely online. It has allowed us to reach and coach parishes at a scale we would never have been able to achieve, and to date, we’re coaching 79 parish priests around the UK — thanks to Zoom! 

However, as we headed out on the road, travelling from Richmond to Paisley — Workington to Nottingham — we were reminded of how the Holy Spirit reaches places deep inside of us as we gather in person. We connected spiritually with each other in new ways.  The two weeks felt profoundly incarnational.  

Coaching day with young priests’ mission fraternity

Leisurely conversations with priests over lunch in London were opportunities to wrestle with the hard questions about moving parishes into mission — and we observed this doesn’t happen on Zoom (where you log off as soon as the hour webinar is over). 

Dinner with the team behind the DR Open House event, Salford

Priests already in coaching with DR introduced us to their priest friends and we discovered that some of the most fruitful ad hoc coaching conversations happen in pubs over beers.  

When we gathered in the homes of leadership team members, we were blessed to share in the laughter, deep conversation and story-telling that happen best over a home-cooked meal.  

“Where I’m from in the US, meals are often functional, in and out of a restaurant in an hour.  But these moments with teams were experiential, whether they were in a restaurant or a home.  What resonated for me was if this is what hospitality looks like when they are beyond the walls of the parish, imagine what is possible for the people coming home to their churches.” – Matt 

We learnt that the ‘wins’ of parish renewal look so much more real in the flesh.  When we saw their contexts with our own eyes, we realized the tremendous odds that parishes have had to surmount to achieve all they have accomplished.  The ‘lows’ of parish renewal are truly tough and gruelling — experiencing first-hand the pain that accompanies growth and change, we had the privilege of stepping into the reality of those ‘low’ moments as friends. 

“One pastor showed me the run-down presbytery where he cannot live, another lamented the lingering pandemic effects on his leadership team’s membership, and another how ill equipped he was from his seminary formation to lead a parish in missionary renewal.  While we did not simply bring answers to quick fixes to these real and painful issues, we did bring hope, encouragement, and a promise of accompaniment for the this long but fruitful and possible journey.” – Matt

Over two weeks, we met 290 lay leaders, 52 priests and bishops, visited 8 parishes and 6 missional communities. At the Eastertide daily Masses, we’d hear of Paul and Barnabas’ travels from church to church, how they put ‘fresh heart’ into the disciples (Acts 14: 22) and realize that WE were the ones receiving ‘fresh heart’ from each of the inspirational parishes we encountered.  

These two weeks on the road were two weeks of new life and fresh heart: the Good News is often quiet and unnoticed – but it is REAL!

Matt speaking at event at Loretto, London

All around the UK, new life is springing up around parishes and people’s lives are changing through meeting Jesus. The Good News is real – and the Church is coming to life. Let’s not be discouraged – let’s keep going.

Praying at the Young Church event, Sheffield

“I absolutely love the UK Catholic Church.  I already felt a great connection to the mission-minded leaders I get to walk alongside and now this Texan feels like an adopted son of the Commonwealth.  The UK renewal efforts are becoming a model for the rest of the world for what is possible and what is urgently needed…a return to the Gospel mandate to make disciples and to bring people into a lifelong and life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.  Let’s keep going Church!” – Matt  

You are not alone – your parish is part of a vast network of NEW LIFE in the UK Catholic Church. Keep going – we are walking alongside you too.  

With prayers – in the power of the Holy Spirit,  

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce and Matt Regitz

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce

Divine Renovation UK Executive Director

Matt Regitz

Matt Regitz

Divine Renovation Leadership Coach