TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Synod of Bishops on Synodality

The Document for the Continental Stage is a working document that seeks to bring out the voices of the People of God, with their insights, their questions, their disagreements.

It is hard to imagine that next week we come to the end of our Liturgical Year, with the Feast of Christ the King. We will finish our Year of Luke, and begin Advent with the Year of Matthew. During the week, Sr Michele Connolly rsj, broke open Matthew’s Gospel, for us - its author, its context, its audience, and its message. Those who came along were inspired and are now ready to immerse themselves more fully, in the liturgical year that lies ahead.

On Saturday, about fifty people gathered at the Victor Peters Suite, to listen to Br Ian Cribb SJ, speak to us about Spiritual Conversations, before spending the day reflecting on our diocesan Foundational Spiritual/Theological Principles. It was a really good day of listening, reflecting and sharing. The day captured well the ongoing synodal journey which our diocese has been travelling for the past 30 years.

On Friday, Brendon Mannyx (Manager Mission and Outreach), Rose McAllister (Manager Formation and Education), Louise Gannon (Manager Worship and Prayer) and I visited the Parish Priests and Parish Pastoral Councils of Muswellbrook, Scone and Murrurundi Parishes, to listen to them and to dialogue with them, so as to begin to re-imagine how the Pastoral Ministries Team might work with them, to be the missionary church we are called to be in our local communities.

Also, during the week, the Reflection Guide for the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) was released, in preparation for next year’s 1st Session of the XVI General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality, in Rome. It accompanies the Working Document for the Continental Stage.

The DCS is the fruit of listening and discernment which emerged from local/national syntheses. It is intended to enable dialogue between local Churches, and between the local Church and the universal Church. Therefore, it is neither a summary of the syntheses nor a mere chronicle of the experiences of listening and discernment. It is a working document that seeks to bring out the voices of the People of God, with their insights, their questions, their disagreements.

The Reflection Guide includes three guiding questions:

  1. Experiences of Church
  • After having read and prayed with the DCS, what resonates most strongly with the lived experiences and realities of the Church in your continent?
  • Which experiences are new, or illuminating to you?
  1. Challenges to Address
  • After having read and prayed with the DCS, what significant tensions or differences emerge as particularly important in your continent’s perspective?
  • Consequently, what are the questions or issues that should be addressed and considered in the next steps of the process?
  1. Priorities and Calls to Action
  • Looking at what emerges from the previous two questions:
  • What are the priorities, recurring themes and calls to action that can be shared with other local Churches around the world?
  • What should be discussed during the First Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023?

The Working Document for the Continental Stage and the Reflection Guide can be found at: https://www.catholic.org.au/synodalchurch. The site provides a timeline for The Synodal Process 2021 – 2024, for listening, encountering, dialoguing and discerning.

The title of the document, Enlarge the space of your tent, comes from Isaiah 54:2

Enlarge the space of your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly, lengthen your ropes and make firm your pegs.

I understand, it is a big ask for people to read the document and then form small reflection groups, but I encourage you to please do so. The DSC Working Document is well written and substantially reflects our own synodal and Plenary Council listening, using the many voices from around the world. As I read it, I felt moved by the common themes of the many thousands of people who have engaged in listening and encountering, sharing their faith around the themes of communion, participation, and mission. I believe it is a genuine attempt to engage with the whole of the universal church. It may be that the two planned sessions of this Assembly will prove to be almost as significant as the Second Vatican Council.

For us in Australia, this next consultation phase is quite short, because of our Christmas break, with submissions due by Friday 9 December.

The basic question which animates the entire process is:

How does this ‘journeying together,’….allow the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?

Please consider this invitation to engage in the process and provide feedback. I note some words from Br Ian Cribb:

Parishioners must become missionaries

I wonder how prepared we are to be missionary disciples, in a missionary church, for the good of humanity, and of the created world, in which we live and share with all other creatures.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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