Imagine walking on your own through your neighbourhood. You are enjoying your time of quiet and solitude, maybe breathing, planning the rest of your day, or simply looking around. Imagine, that on your way you meet a friend who walks with a couple of little children. The way you walk changes as you need to follow the pace of the little ones. You need to stop from time to time or help your friend to run after the child who decides to wander away.
Imagine you meet your old friend in a wheelchair on your walk as he leaves the retirement village. The way you converse with your friend requires you to bend over at times and speak louder.
Walking with others changes your own experience, sometimes it even changes the direction or the goal you want to achieve.
The idea of ‘walking together’ is the core image which Pope Francis presented to the faithful when convoking the Synod on Synodality in 2021.
He called on us: “Let us have a good journey together,” and asked that we be “pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Spirit.” At the opening Mass of the Synod in October 2021, he urged us not to miss out “on the grace-filled opportunities born of encounter, listening, and discernment.”
This is the essence of what has been experienced over the past nine months in the Diocese of Parramatta. Following the call from Pope Francis, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, invited all members of the Diocese to participate in the Synod of Bishops by submitting their thoughts on questions around communion, participation and mission.
At the same time, a Diocesan Committee for the Consultation on the Synod of Bishops and the Diocesan Synod Writing Group worked together on listening and discerning the voices of people in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
The process of consultation successfully concluded with the Final Synthesis document. The document shows the spirit in which the people of the Diocese of Parramatta expressed their voices in making submissions as well as the actions they believe those voices call us to. After a period of viewing and exhibition of the document in late April 2022, we were all led into the celebration of this listening experience and its significance for the Diocese of Parramatta.
The celebration took place Sunday 1 May, with the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes, Seven Hills welcoming Bishop Vincent and members of both committees who prepared the Diocese of Parramatta submissions.
In his homily Bishop Vincent stated:
“Here in Parramatta, this new Exodus journey has already been in motion. The Synthesis affirms that synodality is well and truly established at various levels and in various ways. We are being energised by the culture of inclusion, respect for diversity and difference, partnership and collaboration. I am immensely proud of the way we have engaged with the Synod and the document that the writing group has produced. Let us renew our commitment to co-create with Pope Francis a Church that is fit-for-purpose going forward, one that is humble, transparent, accountable and faithful to the command to evangelise the world.”
This enriching and encouraging event concluded the local level of listening to the Spirit, but the synodal journey continues. The document will now be passed to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and will form part of the Australian response to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023.
Imagine… if we continue walking and listening… that truly would be the synodality in action which Pope Francis wants us to live.
You can read the Synthesis document of submissions by parishioners in the Diocese of Parramatta at bit.ly/synod2023
Sr Grace Roclawska csfn is Head: Formation for Mission in the Diocese of Parramatta.
View images from the Diocesan celebration of the Synthesis document here.