The process which lead to this week's historic gathering of Westminster clergy at Bognor, was outlined at a press conference in Archbishop's House this morning. Tim Livesey, from the Cardinal's public affairs office said that the event was the first in recent years in which all the priests from Westminster would be gathered together in one place. Mr Livesey and Fr Sean Middleton, said Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor had been inspired to begin a renewal programme after reflecting on the Pope's letter: Nuevo Millennio Inuente, last January. The Cardinal circulated the document to all priests, and in February 2002 met with priests in the different regions of the diocese, asking them to reflect on the following questions: 1. Do we agree that we need a process of spiritual renewal in our diocese? 2. What signs do we see that we are in need or are searching for spiritual renewal? and 3. Following your reflections on the Pope's document what do you believe should be our priorities for renewal? In April this year the Cardinal issued a pastoral letter asking the people to reflect on the same three questions and calling for them to make submissions to him individually or as a parish. Mr Livesey said there had been 900 responses from the laity - all of which expressed: "an overwhelming desire to implement the process of pastoral and spiritual renewal in the diocese." (He explained that the results could be made available after the conference). Fr Middleton explained that a Core Group of priests from the diocese was then formed to go to America to explore programmes of renewal which might be used as part of the process of 'At Your Word Lord.' They visited the American Bishops Conference and looked at 'Disciples in Mission' by the Paulist Fathers and RENEW. The Core Group met with the Archbishops Council on 31 May this year and with the Deans and Consultors of the Diocese of Westminster on 7 June and recommended that Westminster use RENEW. RENEW grew from the experience of a diocesan priest from New Jersey, Fr Tom Kleissler in the 1970s. Trying to renew his parish he formed small groups and catechised them. They then reached out to others in order to share their faith. "The results were amazing. A very depressed parish became a vibrant and exciting community," Fr Middleton said. Over the years the Training, Materials and Methodology of Renew have developed and are considered to be very powerful, he said. The programme has been used in many dioceses including Arundel and Brighton, Glasgow, Dunkeld, Achonry, Eplhin, Killala and South Africa. Over half the dioceses in the USA have used RENEW. A series of presentations on RENEW will be given at Bognor (see today's earlier story: Westminster clergy prepare for renewal gathering www.indcatholicnews.com/renewal.html There will also be question and answer sessions. Fr Middleton and Mr Livesey said that using RENEW "was not not a done deal". If the priests were not happy with the project it would be taken back to the Deans and Consultors for further discussion. But they expected it would be welcomed. Mr Livesey said: "This is a wonderful opportunity to live out the Gospel. To spread the Word of God." Michael Brough, director of RENEW has written in the World RENEW Fall newsletter: "This fall RENEW International begins an exciting new endeavour working with the Archdiocese of Westminster. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, is a long-time friend of RENEW. In the late 80s, his then diocese of Arundel and Brighton was the first English diocese to utilise the RENEW process for parish renewal. Since his appointment as Archbishop and elevation to the College of Cardinals, he has been planning a renewal process for Westminster. We are delighted he chose RENEW international to help implement his diocesan plan." For more information on RENEW visit their website at: www.renewintl.org
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