The word synod may or may not be familiar to you. You may have heard of a Synod of Bishops. The Church of Ireland often gather for synods to discuss, debate and decide on particular issues. Like many words in the English language it has its origins in Greek, meaning to walk together.
Pope Francis is very fond of Synods. Since his election nine years ago this March he has called synods on The Family, Young People, and The Pan-Amazon Region. Now we are in the process of a synod on synodality. The focus is on how we are walking together as Church, journeying in a synodal way. Clergy and laity working side by side.
This synod on synodality was launched in October 2021. It will culminate in Rome next year with a gathering of Bishops and other representatives from around the world. Pope Francis has a way of surprising us with what he says and in the actions he takes. So, there is much more to this synod than the meeting of Bishops in Rome. Pope Francis has asked that the whole Church, the whole People of God, become involved. All are invited to undertake a journey of listening, discerning and conversation about how we are being synodal, that is, how we are and do Church.
It has been called the most widespread consultation ever undertaken. There are well over a billion Catholics worldwide and all are invited to participate, to give their views and submit ideas which will help shape the the agenda for what will be discussed in Rome next year.
In the diocese of Killaloe we launched it in the Cathedral in Ennis on October 17th. A national committee to offer support, resources and help with the organisation was formed. Soon after, the Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) of the diocese agreed to coordinate proceedings at local level.
The DPC worked hard to identify and distil from the guiding document from Rome what the key questions for discussion in Killaloe should be. In January a series of seven information meetings were held on-line for each of the 15 pastoral areas. Training for facilitators of meetings were provided in February. During the first four weeks of Lent, in March the synodal meetings will happen.
An information brochure and the format of the questions are available on the Killaloe diocesan website www.killaloediocese.ie.
In the words of the preparatory document “The purpose of the Synod is to inspire people… to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”
Pope Francis put it like this in his words of encouragement: “I encourage you to take this synodal process seriously and tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you. And this is true: The Holy Spirit needs us. Listen to the Spirit by listening to yourself.”
Key issues around which the discussion will happen are the important areas of Communion, Participation and Mission. Helpful questions have been identified to stimulate and encourage discussion.
What does Communion mean for you?
Do you have a real sense of belonging to a Church community? Are we living up to our calling to be welcoming and inclusive? Do you know people or groups who feel excluded or marginalised? What can be done to be include everybody?
What does Participation mean for you?
Have you had the opportunity to participate in Church? If not, what obstacles do you feel prevent you? How can we promote participation in our parish community?
What do you understand by Mission?
Is our Church community inward-looking or outward-looking? Are we reaching out to those who are hurting or marginalised? What needs call for our response?
How can I participate?
Parishes and Pastoral Areas all over the diocese will be holding many forms of Synodal conversations during March 2022. Details of your local parish or pastoral area conversations will be available on Parish Newsletters and Social Media platforms. You are invited to take part in these conversations, to share your views and to listen to others. You can also take the opportunity to participate online in the Synodal Process by completing the online survey on the Diocesan Website at: https://www.killaloediocese.ie/synod-keyqs/
You don’t need to be a regular participant in Church activities and events to be part of this process. All the more, if you have fallen away from the faith or if you never engaged at any stage I would like to hear your voice. I earnestly look forward to listening to what you have to say and look forward to hearing from you.
✠ Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article Friday 25th of February