To be honest, the word ‘synodality’ is one of those words that used to fly right over my head because it wasn’t something I was familiar with. Lucky for me, there was an opportunity to unpack what Pope Francis is asking all people to be part of (see Vademecum p16-17). Are we listening to each other deeply or enough? What’s your experience and what can the Church do to be better at it? “What an opportunity…” I thought to myself, “…what an opportunity IF we do this right. So what do I need to know about this synodal process?”
Let’s break it down as I attempt to unpack the 3-part Synodality Workshops of the Diocese of Parramatta, which, by the way, you can watch on our Catholic and local version of Netflix called ‘The Well’ (thewell.org.au).
Fr Peter Blayney, Episcopal Vicar for Canonical Matters and parish priest of St Patrick’s Parish, Guildford, shared that in Greek, it means to ‘walk along the same path’. Pope Francis is calling us, the Church, to build in our parishes, schools, communities and ministries a CULTURE of walking with one another – deep listening and encounter. When a synod is called, by Canon Law, it is the responsibility of the local church (the diocese) to consult with as many people as humanly possible to share their experiences and suggestions. You can submit your thoughts individually or as a group here.
What struck me here is that deep listening and encounter was already happening in some families and schools. Scott Carroll from the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Mission Team spoke about the family like a band with their different instruments, notes and sounds much like the different perspectives that can come together in symphony (I love analogies), and Francis O’Callaghan, also from the Mission Team, shared the difficulty in accepting that we each have agency in the Church – your story and your opinion is wanted, welcomed, acknowledged and honoured.
Someone told me that the Diocese of Parramatta is one of the most culturally diverse community in Australia and, arguably, the world. We need to own that! Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, challenged me to imagine the enlightenment of hearing such different experiences and spiritualities within the Church. Imagine the graces of unity, acceptance, safety and fraternity for each person speaking. Imagine the marginalised not only acknowledged but given the microphone – what would be said?
What I was hearing in small groups
I can only speak on behalf of the groups I was in, but I was moved by the deep honesty of experiences in our Church including worries, hopes and frustrations. For example, some shared that they were used to being told what to do and what to think by clergy, but the synodal process asks them to reflect and share their thoughts. Another night, one shared about the changing realities of even going to Mass 30 years ago up to now. What a challenge! What hope! We have a chance to really know what is happening in the true stories of people’s lives who are sitting in the pews right beside us.
My prayer is for the Church, including you and I, to be open to the Holy Spirit prompting us to talk to one another and truly listen. To hold our tongue and open our hearts. Let us not be afraid of encountering one another and to be deeply moved by a stranger’s story – that is sacred, that is needed, and that is Christ at work in each of us.
Raimie Caramancion is a Pastoral Formation Facilitator, Mission Enhancement Team, in the Diocese of Parramatta.
You can view the series on Synodality on The Well here: