Synod question makes strong statement

On the 8 August 2019 Bishop Bill Wright convoked a Diocesan Synod for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, something he has never done before.

The last Synod was held in our Diocese in 1992-1993.   

The word synod comes from the word synodos, which means “together on a path”.

This Synod is about having deep conversations, listening to the other while listening to the Spirit, “it is not simply an event,” Bishop Bill said. “It is a process by which the people of God walk together a journey, trying to respond more fully to God.”

“Convoking a synod is a process, a journey for us together over a couple of years,” he said.

Bishop Bill put the following question to the 400 people who gathered on Saturday 23 November for the first Diocesan Synod session.

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
  • joyful, hope-filled and a servant of the community
  • open to conversion, renewal and reform?

Fr Richard Lennan travelled from Boston to break open the “missionary and evangelising” theme. He noted being missionary is not so much what a person does, as what a person is. We need to be self-critical and humble so that we are open to the life-giving qualities that enable us to be agents of good news in the world.

Sr Lauretta Baker RSJ facilitated the “inclusive, participatory and synodal” workshop and engaged with those who attended in exploring perception of church and the factors that impact on our perception.  

Bishop Greg Homeming OCD, bishop of the Lismore Diocese spoke beautifully of being “prayerful and eucharistic” sharing with those who gathered that only in authentic prayerfulness and gratitude (Eucharist) can the joy of who we are shine out.

Mary Ringstad, director of mission at Calvary Mater Hospital presented the theme of “humble, healing and merciful”. She led an exploration of why this emerged as a key theme within the Plenary Council.

Ursula Stephens, chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia, spoke with passion about the vulnerable and marginalised people who are served by those in our parishes and in Catholic social services. She expressed the need for us to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to build a “joyful, hope-filled and servant community” of believers.  

A creative expressions workshop run by teacher Rose McAllister, provided opportunity for participants to capture all of the themes without using words. It was a gentle, prayerful, reflective experience using different mediums. 

Lana Turvey-Collins has travelled the width and breath of Australia since being invited by the Australian Catholic Bishops to facilitate the Plenary Council of Australia. She spoke courageously, boldly and with zeal about the possibilities of listening to what the Spirit is saying. She encouraged us to be “open to conversion, renewal and reform”.

We have much to ponder as we continue to contemplate and discern in our hearts, minds and community what it means to be an authentic Christ-centered church before we meet 21 November 2020 for the next session of Synod.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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