“How do we accompany people in their relationship with Jesus? Because once that happens then amazing things happen as a result.”
Jacqueline Marie | April 12, 2023
In the fall of 2022, Father Brendan was only 2 months into his first pastorship when he started group coaching with DR. He states, “I want my parish to be alive.”
Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church in Luton, UK, (the oldest parish in the town) had been a parish firmly in maintenance mode. It also happens to be where he grew up as a child. But his focus is not on the past, his vision is for what he hopes the parish will become in the next 20 years.
He dreams of “a buzzing parish that is not priest-centered…I want to priest-proof the parish” so that it is not reliant on the personality of a great priest but that the parish will thrive regardless of when a priest needs to move. His desire is for the church to be the centre of life for Luton again “from cradle to grave.”
While DR UK Regional Guide Jordan Kelly states that Father Brendan is, “such a fearless priest, with a trust in the Lord,” Father Brendan replies how much his parishes renewal “has got nothing to do with me, its God obviously.”
Father Brendan has “been preaching a lot about the idea of mission and …having a renovation in our parish and making people in love with Jesus.” He has heard parishioners begin to say: “I want to get more involved in parish life, I want to grow in my relationship with Christ.”
For him being accompanied by DR has meant “having that kind of guidance” and someone to say, “maybe try this if that doesn’t work” and if something fails “that’s also OK.” He found it wasn’t a program but “a way of living” where “we are constantly at the prompting of the Spirit.” It has made him focus on “how do we accompany people in their relationship with Jesus? Because once that happens then amazing things happen as a result.”
In less than a year the parish has set up a SLT and grown in numbers as well as giving; but the real excitement lies in the 6 adult baptisms and 14 confirmations that took place over the weekend at the Easter Vigil. There is a real aliveness emerging in the parish — “I’m excited. There is a proper buzz!”
Father Brendan tells the story of one of the men who was just confirmed: “This guy just turned up one day,” the church was open, and the man was sitting in one of the pews. The man said, “Father may I speak with you?” He introduced himself as Arthur and told Father Brendan he instantly “felt at home when he came to the church.” He was in a program getting clean from narcotics and knew he couldn’t do it on his own, he needed God.
Newly baptized/confirmed adults with Father Brendan at the Easter Vigil
Now Arthur is “on fire with the Spirit” and has also brought a friend, Jason to the faith. “If you saw them, you’d probably run a mile because, they have tattoos, they’re big guys, they look scary if you don’t know them, but they are soft as anything – they are incredible.” Jason was one of the 6 adult’s baptized this Easter. “They are on fire.” The parish is about to start their very first Alpha. Arthur and Jason will be part of it, welcoming others to meet Jesus and have lives be transformed like they have.
Father Brendan laughs and says “I’m hoping this time next year we have 66 baptisms…I’m hoping we have too many baptisms” to get through, joking that he hopes he needs to bless more water.
“There’s a sense of all of us are missionary, all of us are called to be Saints, you know, like even something small or seemingly insignificant can have powerful consequences.”