Bishop Vincent: Synodality is ‘a new and exciting mission for us all’

By Mary Brazell, 31 March 2023
Parish support team members and Diocese of Parramatta Chancery staff are seen during a Lenten Reflection Day at St Patrick's Cathedral Hall, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Two weeks after convoking the Diocesan Synod, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, has told parish support team members that synodality must be reflected and embedded from the ground up.

“My dream is that we have synodality embedded into our way of thinking and doing,” Bishop Vincent told the group during a Parish Staff Lenten Reflection Day at St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall on Tuesday 21 March.

“We are trying to embed synodality in the structures of the Diocese – in our councils and agencies – because decision-making processes should be a collective exercise.

“This season of Lent is about changing the way we do things to a way that God desires and requires of us, and synodality is essentially a road to conversion.”

Bishop Vincent explained that by walking on this journey together, we are committing ourselves to pursuing God’s mission in the world.

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, speaks to parish support team members during a Lenten Reflection Day at St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“The word parish comes from the Greek work paroikia, which means to search on together, to be on pilgrimage together. The origin of this word gives us an insight into the way the Church was configured and how we thought of ourselves as pilgrims on the journey.

“We are part of this mission of the Holy Trinity, which is drawing all of us into the life and love of God and the Church is that vehicle by which God brings us together.

“The Second Vatican Council envisaged a Church that is open and in partnership with all men and women of good will. And Pope Francis in his pontificate is trying to live out this vision of the Second Vatican Council.

“Synodality is about empowering all people of God to be in mission, to participate, to be a catalyst and a herald of the Gospel.

“By promoting synodality, we are going back to an original concept of being Catholic – being called, inclusive, universal and all-embracing.

“The time has come for us who believe in the all-embracing, all-loving God to take ownership of our vocation, to take ownership of our mission, to take ownership of who we are meant to be in this world.”

Earlier in the day, the 29 parish support team members from 20 parishes reflected on the importance of deep listening during Lent and were invited to participate in spiritual conversations with one another.

“We are often bombarded, not just in our workplaces, but in our homes, online or other spaces in our lives, with information, and it’s sometimes hard to just listen to one thing,” Catholic Youth Parramatta Manager Qwayne Guevara told the group.

Qwayne Guevara, Manager – Catholic Youth Parramatta and Lead Facilitator of the Diocesan Synod, speaks to parish support team members during a Lenten Reflection Day at St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“Today is about pausing, and listening and remembering the context that God is calling us to during Lent of dependence and remembrance of Him.

“Sometimes when we’re talking a lot about work, we don’t often get this dimension of our very human selves, and this is part of what it means to be Church, a community. Even just a glimpse or a taste of you sharing leads to a connectedness that reminds us of God.

“Listening has this incredible capacity to transform us because when we listen to other people, when we give them the space to be heard, something happens to us. Either that calls us to respond in a particular way or it moves us to want to understand more deeply. In many ways, we have changed for the good.

“This Synod is an opportunity for us as a Diocese to come together as a community to meet with people that we may not really know, to hear stories of people that we have not heard from, to give them the space to give us the space to learn about each other.”

Mission Enhancement Team Facilitator Rachael Kama added, “I think out of every part of the Church, you as parish staff listen the most. Sometimes it’s 50% of your role, sometimes its 100% of the role.

Mission Enhancement Team Facilitator Rachael Kama speaks to parish support team members during a Lenten Reflection Day at St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“It’s really important to know that listening is different from hearing. You can be hearing all these different sounds, but listening requires attention, it requires you to delve into the conversation and understand the other. Before we could speak, we learnt how to listen.

“When we engage in spiritual conversations, it requires two things – deep listening and an open heart. This kind of dialogue focuses on the quality of one’s capacity to listen as well as the quality of the words that are spoken. That means you are not just attentive to the words that you’re going to hear, but the words that are flowing inside of you spiritually and understanding what the Spirit is saying in this moment.”

Judy from St Matthew’s Parish, Windsor, took to heart the notion of listening what people have to say, not just hearing what they are saying.

“A day like today makes you stop and focus on what you have to focus on. You can’t really give your 100% to everybody all the time. You really need a day where you can sit, wait, listen, reflect so that when you go back [to the parish], you’re refreshed and can start again,” she said.

“It’s important for us to remember why we are, where we are, why we work, when you love the work, so just to make it worthwhile for the people who come in.”

Parish support team members pause for reflection during a Lenten Reflection Day at St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall, Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Anthony from Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields, is looking forward to the role that he can play in the Diocesan Synod in allowing his community to share their hopes for the future.

“I hope to come up with ways in which I can get my parishioners talking about synodality, helping them to understand what synodality means for the Church, and being able to create events and times where they can share their thoughts and their experiences.

“I hope we can explore what synodality might mean for our parish and then bring it together for the Bishop and his team to really consider where the diocese is going to go with this journey of synodality that we’ve just begun.

“It’s a lot of work for the parish, but we will engage the right people, create a good team to help collate that information really listen to what people are wanting from their Church.”

View images from the Parish Support Teams Lenten Reflection day here or below.

20230321 Parish Support Staff Lenten Reflection Day (74 of 74)


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