So, what is synodality and what have we learned about it during 2023? One thing we learned is that not many people understand what the word synodality is, but they know it when they experience it! For the future of the Church, it is worth understanding and promoting synodality.
Put simply, a synodal Church is one where there is an understanding that the mission of the Church was entrusted to all of us on the day of our baptism. A synodal Church is characterised by respectful listening, dialogue, encounter and co-responsibility and where structures and ways of being affirm our common baptismal dignity. Leadership in a synodal Church is characterised by service as modelled by Jesus.
The 2021 and 2022 diocesan assemblies and regional assemblies in 2023 and 2024 are ways this diocese is listening, and it is the feedback and recommendations from the assemblies that have formed the agenda for the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
What we heard the people in the diocese calling for are the characteristics of a synodal Church.
People called for new models of leadership and ministry and especially those that recognise the role of women and young people. We heard strong encouragement to become a more inclusive and welcoming Church and to be leaders for justice, peace and ecology. These and many other recommendations will shape our Diocesan Pastoral Council journey over the coming years, in dialogue and partnership with others.
‘A synodal Church desires to be humble and knows that it must ask forgiveness and has much to learn.’ This statement from the Working Document for the First Session of the Synod on Synodality, being held in Rome this month, is such an important one to consider.
I grew up in a Church where although as individuals we were often called on to be humble, this did not seem to apply to the Church as a whole.
It could be said that a lack of humility leads to poor listening and poor leadership. Critically, as a humble, listening Church we must acknowledge the mistrust and serious harm caused by the crises of sexual abuse and abuse of power in the Church and diligently work to open ‘paths of reconciliation, healing and justice’ as stated in the Working Document. Only a humble, listening Church can truly be welcoming and inclusive.
The Diocesan Pastoral Council has been reflecting on the Working Document for the First Session of the Synod on Synodality (Instrumentum Laboris) as a way of developing our understanding of synodality and the issues that have been raised across the world during the consultation phase.
The issues have been summarised under three key areas: Communion, Mission and Participation. The issues raised by Catholics across the globe are similar to those raised during the Australian Plenary Council and our own diocesan assemblies.
Sometimes I hear people say that they are tired of being asked to provide feedback and they just want to see action on the issues that are being raised in many forums. I can understand this impatience and although change is sometimes very slow there are structures emerging that give us hope and confidence in renewal.
Please join the Diocesan Pastoral Council as we journey together in hope and in authentic dialogue with the help of the Holy Spirit toward new horizons.
Archbishop O’Regan goes to Rome for the Synod with our prayers and best wishes and we look forward to hearing from him on his return. I am sure his reflection on the Synodal gathering will prompt much discussion at our November meeting.
Monica Conway is chair of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.Jump to next article