When preparations began for our first-ever Diocesan Synod early in the year, Bishop Vincent asked that I be the Lead Facilitator.
As a lawyer, one of the first things I did was investigate the canonical documents on Synods from the Vatican. The title of this article is a line from the Vatican document on the Synod on Synodality. It glared at me from the page – “synodality begins in forgiveness and reconciliation ad intra.”
Before then, I had viewed the concept of synodality as a mechanism for reform of the operations and structures of the Church. I would later appreciate that any reform in operation or structure would only be a consequence of the personal and institutional vulnerability that we are being invited to pursue.
In prayer and reflection on this line and writings on synodality, it became increasingly clear to me that synodality is not about the opinions of any individual. It is first and foremost a call to humility before God within the other that leads to reconciliation and forgiveness. Therefore, inviting us into deeper listening and deeper communion as the Body of Christ, truly reflecting the image of God who is Love.
The preparations and process towards our Diocesan Synod have revealed the deep need for this forgiveness and reconciliation amongst us. At a global, diocesan, and personal level, there have been many factors that have impacted the way we live our lives. These obvious, and often hidden, realities have affected the way we gather, participate in the life of the Church, and the zeal we have for mission and service.
In early March, we began with casting a vision to reach out and invite at least 32,000 people in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains (10% of Catholics in our Diocese) in the listening stage towards the Synod. Between May and July, thousands participated in local listening sessions, had conversations with family and friends, or made submissions directly through the Synod website.
As our entire community took courageous steps to truly listen to the Holy Spirit in one another, people opened their hearts and shared the challenges, joys, and dreams they have for our local Church.
I use the word courageous because the call to listen demands a willingness to trust that God is working within people and amongst us. The Holy Spirit who is active and creative, who animates and guides us, and who draws us into communion and mission.
The fruits of the courage to step towards forgiveness and reconciliation are slowly being experienced. For faith communities, it has encouraged a deeper effort to reach out beyond those not normally engaged. Young people from within our schools and parishes expressed hope for the future of our local Church. For many families and couples, the process has ignited conversations leading to understanding and compassion. These fruits reveal the promise of a synodal Church – a more contemplative, listening, and discerning Church.
However, this call to ‘walk together’ never guaranteed an easy path. There have been challenges along the way. I’ve encountered the fear in others and still, I’ve been called to listen, seeing God moving in the other.
When I look to Jesus on the Cross and encounter His example through the Gospels, I’m reminded that Jesus came to offer His mercy, so that we may experience reconciliation that affirms our very nature, made for communion.
It is this mercy and reconciliation that gives me hope for what’s to come for our community here in the Diocese of Parramatta. Guided by Bishop Vincent Long, we walk with all People of God in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
To find out more visit parracatholic.org/synod2023
Qwayne Guevara is the Lead Facilitator for our Diocesan Synod. She is also the Manager of Catholic Youth Parramatta.
This article was originally published in the 2023 Season of Creation | Spring edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.