Synod question makes strong statement

Bishop Bill Wright put the following question to the 400 people who gathered in prayer, community and hope on Saturday 23 November for the first session of the diocesan Synod.

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 specifically to be with the people of his Diocese 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.   

Sr Lauretta is highly respected for assisting religious communities discern their leadership issues.  

We were blessed to have Bishop Greg Homeming OCD, a Discalced Carmelite and bishop of the Lismore Diocese speak 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 and a highly respected pastoral and spiritual carer in the medical profession, presented the theme of “humble, healing and merciful”. She led an exploration of why this emerged as a key theme within the Plenary Council. The workshop was confronting and challenged our openness to conversion.   

Ursula Stephens, chief executive of Catholic Social Services Australia, spent 12 years as a Labor Party federal senator for NSW (2002 to 2014). As a committed Catholic, Dr Stephens spoke with passion about the vulnerable and marginalised people who are served by those in our parishes and in Catholic social services across the country. 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.  Serving local communities across the Diocese demonstrates the love of Christ.

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. It will have two sessions, one in October 2020 and the other in May of 2021. 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 again next November for the second session of Synod. This synodal process invites us to journey with each other and the Spirit, listening deeply and prayerfully.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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