A Church diverse, but in union. This was the theme of the Diocese of Parramatta’s Synod of Bishops Exhibition Night, held over Zoom on Thursday, April 21 and facilitated by the Diocesan Committee for the Consultation on the Synod of Bishops and the Diocesan Synod Writing Group. The evening was an opportunity for the Synod Committee and the Writing Group to launch the ten-page Draft Synthesis, “Go Out Into The Deep: Become the Church Christ calls us to be”. The Synthesis, which will be presented to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, compiles the responses to the Synod questions received from over 650 individuals across the Diocese.
Synod an opportunity to journey as one
Feedback on the Synod logo set the scene for what the Synod is trying to achieve: people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, especially people whose voices are not often heard, walking together as one towards a common purpose.
Jim, a participant, described the Synod as “a group of people together, listening intently to each other across the great variety of differences of points of view and considering what they’re hearing in a very prayerful way.”
Writing Group: our Synodal diocese “gives us hope” for future transformation
Anastasia Boulus, a member of the Writing Group, led those present through a summary of the responses, which reflected on questions around journeying together as a Church, personal conversation with Pope Francis, and the relevance of the Church today. From the responses received, the Writing Group drew out seven themes and three initial actions.
The themes explored and acknowledged the existing synodality of the Diocese in the pastoral councils, approaches of leadership, school commitments, and the wisdom of religious institutes. The themes also highlighted areas for growth and transformation, particularly in cultural inclusion and welcome, embracing the spirit of Vatican II, transparent and synodal leadership, more opportunities for education and formation, greater inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, LGBTQIA+ Catholics, and those of other faiths, and creative and welcoming liturgies.
Moving forward: listen mindfully to the Spirit and to those on the margins
Writing Group team member Anne Benjamin drew out the wealth of emotions reflected in responses to the Synod’s questions ranging from joy to anger. At the heart of all, she said, was a voice of hopefulness and desire to walk together, especially with people on the margins.
She presented the Synthesis’ three recommendations for action: developing a culture of synodality through intentional reflection, addressing structural factors of abuse, responding to trauma and hurt, and education towards a more adult spirituality; walking with and learning from people of Aboriginal backgrounds in order to more deeply understand spirituality and culture, and supporting these actions through planning, goal-setting, forums, review and reporting.
“The conversation doesn’t stop here”
Synod Committee team member and Head of Formation for Mission with the MET, Sr Grace Roclawska, led the group through smaller group discussion on the Synthesis, asking those present to consider particular points that challenged or surprised them, or made them think. The group responses were diverse, with most people saying they felt heard and represented. Wendy Goonan said her group expressed an awareness of the continuing Synod process, stating: “The conversation doesn’t stop here.”
Fr Shinto Francis commented that those in his group were challenged by the areas for growth, particularly connecting with Aboriginal spirituality and creating inclusive liturgies. “We were all quite surprised that we haven’t gone a bit further than we have already”, he said. Padmi Pathinather and Sr Grace shared similar findings from their groups, acknowledging a desire to connect and the need to be patient. “People are willing to be open to each other where they are at”, Padmi said. Sr Grace concluded the evening with her own reflection. “The Synodality process will take a lifetime, because we will always be at different stages of the journey”, she said. “The group helped me to understand that we need to celebrate the one who is on the journey, not the nine who are behind us.”
The evening concluded with an invitation to all extended by James Camden, Head of Mission Engagement with the MET, to join Bishop Vincent on 1 May for a special Mass celebrating the Synodal process within the Diocese. This Mass will be an opportunity for all within the Diocese to come together and give thanks for the journey already undertaken and continuing towards the Synodal meeting of Bishops in Rome in 2023.
Read the Draft Synthesis at parracatholic.org/synod-of-bishops. Responses will be presented to Bishop Vincent on 28 April.
Continue celebrating the Synodal journey by joining us for a special Mass with Bishop Vincent at 9:30AM on Sunday, 1 May at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Seven Hills. Please RSVP for catering purposes to firstname.lastname@example.org