TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Gathering, listening, and sharing

I am writing this week’s message after returning home once again, from our family on the Gold Coast. This time we went for the weekend to assist with the celebration of the 40th birthday of one of our sons-in-law.

We helped with the setting up, catering, and cleaning up, for what was a wonderful party with lots of his friends and their children. It was indeed a delightful celebration of families. People really enjoyed their time together, and of course Allen and I appreciated time with our family.

It drew me to the following prayer that I came across during the week, about listening, as this is what I observed as Sam and Angela gathered with their friends.

The gift of a listening heart is one way by which we can bear
Christ’s loving presence in a broken world.
The simple act of listening can do much good –
       to heal,
       to affirm personal dignity,
       to create space for ‘more’ to happen.
As an action-response going forward,
Let us commit to being better listeners.

Those who attended the party arrived feeling good, and left feeling good, because they were valued and were treated with dignity and respect.

This draws me to the word, ‘synodality’ which has been captured by our church, particularly since Pope Francis became its head in 2013.

On October 11, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII, in 1962. All the bishops, from all over the world, were invited to participate in its four sessions, which St. Paul VI concluded on Dec. 8, 1965.

Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, published a message, Dream of ‘synodality’ is the fruit of Vatican II, on the council and synodality, on the day before the 60th anniversary of the opening of the council. He said that while "synodality" was not a term used by the council, it reflects the council's vision of the church.

The “magna carta” of the 2021-2024 process of the synod “is the council’s doctrine on the church, particularly its theology of the people of God, a people whose ‘condition is the dignity and freedom of the children of God, in whose heart the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple,'” he said, quoting from the council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.

The current synod process, with its listening sessions around the world, and its prayer and discernment, is focused on the theme, “For a synodal church: Communion, participation and mission.”

Those three words, Cardinal Grech wrote, “are eminently conciliar words. The church that we are called to dream and build is a community of women and men drawn together in communion by the one faith, our common baptism and the same Eucharist, in the image of God the Trinity: women and men who together, in the diversity of ministries and charisms received, actively participate in the establishment of the kingdom of God, with the missionary impetus of bringing to all the joyful witness of Christ, the only saviour of the world.

In the history of time, as we measure it, 60 years is not a long period, and so the work of the Second Vatican Council and its 16 documents has yet to be fully realised.

This work continues around the globe and in our own diocese. So, people from around the diocese have been invited to a Reflection Day on Saturday 12 November across six locations. The purpose of this day is to:

  • gather and reconnect with each other
  • pray, reflect and engage with one another
  • reflect with our diocesan foundational principles
  • renew our sense of community after months of restrictions
  • remember and pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop Bill on the anniversary of his death
  • pray for the appointment of a new bishop

This day of reflection and prayer, will make more real for us the words of the upcoming Bishop’s Synod on Synodality - “For a synodal church: Communion, participation and mission.”

Our diocesan foundational principles are a consequence of Vatican II.

In the decades since the council, Cardinal Grech said, “the synod has constantly placed itself at the service of the council, contributing for its part to renewing the face of the church in ever deeper fidelity to sacred Scripture and living tradition and in attentive listening to the signs of the times.

This is why you are being invited to gather. We have not been together as a diocesan community since our Second Session of Synod in May of last year. I know that when Fr Matthew Muller and I have been visiting parishes this year, there has been an atmosphere of excitement and energy, a bit like the party on Saturday night -  People coming together as friends, to listen to, and enjoy, each other’s company.

The prayer I leave you with this week is the Opening Prayer of the Second Vatican Council. I find this prayer to the Holy Spirit to be very profound.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.