Message from Teresa Brierley

“Synodality” and “discernment” are two words that have been used a great deal in church circles this year, and particularly in Australia as we continue our journey towards the Plenary Council of 2020 and 2021, and our own diocesan Synod of 2019-20-21.

Pope Francis’s vision for the synodal church reflects the language of discernment:

A synodal Church is a Church of listening. It is mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn: the faithful, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome; each listening to the others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (John 14:17) to know what he ‘says to the Churches’ (Revelation 2:7).

A synodal church is a discerning church, in which everyone listens to each other, in order to listen to the Holy Spirit.

In our journeying together in 2019, we have been attempting to listen humbly and respectfully and to speak boldly and courageously. This listening and speaking has taken shape in both the Listening and Dialogue and the Listening and Discernment processes for the Plenary Council and our own diocesan Synod.

We are asking the question: as disciples of Christ, what needs to happen in our hearts and in our minds and in our community for us to be a Christ-centred church that is:

  • missionary and evangelising
  • inclusive, participative and synodal
  • prayerful and eucharistic
  • humble, healing and merciful
  • a joyful, hope-filled and servant community
  • open to conversion, renewal and reform?

In Pastoral Ministries and in our parishes, we are attempting to create spaces for these themes by ministering with others across the five foundations of pastoral life:

  • identity and community
  • worship and prayer
  • formation and education
  • mission and outreach
  • leadership and structure.

We have wise and generous people on our diocesan councils who engage not only with those in church but also with the wider community to bring about God’s kingdom. The following councils have met regularly seeking to respond to the needs of the church and the community:

  • The Council for Mission
  • The Adult Faith Formation Council
  • The Diocesan Council of Ministry with Young People
  • The Ecumenical and Interfaith Council
  • The Liturgy Council
  • The Social Justice Council.

Family Ministry co-ordinators have connected with families in our schools and parishes, while couples have engaged with those who work in marriage and relationship education. We have deepened our connection with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and supported the diocesan contact group for the Council for Australian Catholic Women.

We continue to outreach to those in prison, the port, at the university, in hospitals and aged-care facilities.

We value our relationships with Caritas, Catholic Mission, Calvary Mater, Calvary Aged Care, Catholic Health Care Services, Mercy Services and St Vincent de Paul.

Our civil society would be the poorer without our ongoing commitment to making a difference in the lives of people in our local, national and global communities. Those who minister in the pastoral area of diocesan life acknowledge that we are formed in Christ, and animated for discipleship, community and mission. It is through our gathering in worship and prayer that we go forth on mission; from communion comes mission.

Our diocesan Synod, with its theme “Building the Kingdom of God together” provides us with a wonderful sense of the local church listening and discerning for the Spirit of truth.

Teresa Brierley
Director Pastoral Ministries

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Teresa Brierley

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