‘Putting flesh on the bones’: The next step in our synodal journey

By Qwayne Guevara, 6 June 2024
Participants in discussion during a Diocesan Think Tank session at St Michael's Church, Parish of Baulkham Hills. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


The synodal journey of the Diocese of Parramatta continues to challenge and surprise us.

The invitation to reconciliation and communion ad intra (from within) has highlighted the need to situate ourselves more deeply in Christ, and to acknowledge the source and inspiration for our work in synodality.

Synodality is truly an action of the Holy Spirit. Through the listening consultations towards – and at – the Synod assembly, we heard the vitality and diverse lived experiences of the members of our community. Their struggles and shared hopes are now the launching pad for our discussions as we are discerning together the practical responses to pastoral needs across all dimensions of our Diocese.

Since the release of Bishop Vincent’s decree outlining the 24 Synod resolutions in January 2024, our Diocesan community has shifted into the next part of the process – the development of the Diocesan Plan for a Synodal Church. This pastoral plan has been long awaited by many, and now we find ourselves at a critical time.

With the support of the Diocesan leadership, the draft of the Diocesan Plan was launched in late April and has been the stimulus for reflections and discussions to identify practical recommendations on how the resolutions could be implemented in our local communities. This next step, the Think Tank Sessions during May and June, is ‘putting the flesh on the bones’. This invitation to members of our community into conversation on the plan seeks to honour the call and responsibility of all in the process.

With our desire to faithfully respond to the Holy Spirit in this next phase, we must move forward now and assess the processes, projects, practices, and perceptions that need to be surrendered in order to genuinely respond to the action of the Holy Spirit.

This can be a challenging time as our diversity and individual lived experiences remain a point of tension. However, we are invited to be open with charity and hope for the future of our local church.

As a Diocese, this shared vision and mission is for all, and calls each person to continue choosing to ‘walk together’.

To navigate this time together is a gift. Through it we learn to appreciate that the plan itself stands as just one element of the broader purpose of our synodal journey. While the plan will articulate the practical responses to the resolutions, it is the gathering of people, in the spirit of communion and the willingness to accompany one another, that will meaningfully impact the lives of those we call our brothers and sisters and will draw us deeper into relationship with God.

It is our openness to difficult conversations that will bring to light the current structural and procedural realities that are hindering our ability to see the sacredness in each other. It will be the holding of tension and navigating through these together that will prompt us to seek God’s guidance in the way we respond to the needs in our Diocese.

The successful and effective implementation of the plan relies on all of us to respond to this call. It is not just for a few; it is for all. We are inspired by the virtue of hope which, St Thomas Aquinas explains, involves striving and struggle, of seeking an arduous but possible good. Hope in Christ transforms hard hearts and opens us to humility that leads to this possible good.

As we continue with prayerful listening, dialogue, discernment, and decision-making, we look ahead to 10 August 2024, where we will gather members of our community at the Diocesan Gathering, where the new Diocesan Plan for a Synodal Church, our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, will be launched.

This momentous occasion will mark the next step of our journey, the implementation of the plan.

With hearts burning, we can look ahead with confidence knowing that it is God who chooses us first, and so we can embrace the response to hope for our Church ahead. Let us continue to invite the Holy Spirit to move within and amongst us.

There is still time to have your say on the draft Diocesan Plan. Check with your local parish or faith community for the closest local Think Tank Session.

Qwayne Guevara is the Lead Facilitator for the Diocesan Synod process and is the Manager – Catholic Youth Parramatta in the Diocese of Parramatta’s Mission Enhancement Team.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Ordinary Time | Winter edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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