Content from the
Diocese of Palmerston North
Synod Introduction Session
21 October 2021
Pope Francis has invited the Catholic Church to embark on a journey together. He recongnises the need for synodality in the Spirit of Vatican II, as he has intimated that we are not living in an era of change, but rather, a change of era. This requires us to evaluate, discuss, think and dialogue with our brothers and sisters so we can determine, as we have done throughout the history of the Church, the direction forward.
Through listening and discernment rooted in the Holy Spirit, the entire people of God will be called to contribute to a process by which the Church deepens in understanding of Her mission and looks toward the future.
Francis has called the synod to continue the movement of the Church into the full realisation of the implications of the Vatican II Council and be a Church responsive to the signs of the times. Pope Francis has been quoted as saying, we are not living in an era of change, but in a change of era. One of these aspects of change is existing as a synodal Church – a church that both listens and journeys together.
A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together.” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”?
This journeying together is essential as we go about the fundamental purpose of the Church, which is why the three big themes of synod are communion, participation and mission.
There is both hope and cynicism in regard to this synod. When we consider the historical and current ecclesiology of the Church, we know that the Church has changed, but the mission hasn’t. Where traditionally the educated in the church were the clergy, the theological education of the laity is the highest it has ever been. Dialogue and discourse is therefore happening in many areas of the church and there is wisdom, hope, and expectation. Cardinal Grech, one of the organisers of the Synod points out too, that idea taught by the Second Vatican Council, that “the entire body of the faithful … cannot err in matters of belief.” In Lumen gentium, we read that “the holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office” and therefore we make up part of the sensus fidelium – the sense of the faithful.
We are a diverse Church, over 1 billion people big and our diversity teaches us, challenges us and the inclusive nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Living in ecclesial communion, requires circularity, reciprocity, journeying together with respect to the various functions of the People of God, therefore, communion becomes the participation of all in the life of the Church, each according to his or her specific condition and function. The synodal process demonstrates this very well.”
The hope of Pope Francis is through this synodal process, we become more attuned to the needs of the poor, the marginalised, our environment and our brothers and sisters of the many peoples, religions cultures and ethnicities as we go about making Jesus known and loved.
This synodal journey has commenced both in the Vatican and in the local churches, starting with the Official Opening with the Holy Father in the Vatican on 9-10 October 2021. This will was followed by an Official Opening in each local church, which happened at the 6pm Cathedral Mass with Cardinal John on Sunday 17 October 2021.
This will be followed by three phases firstly local, then national/continental and finally the global phase in 2023.
- The Diocesan Phase: Local churches will gather to discuss and respond to the Synod Questions. These responses are submitted to the Diocese.
- Continental Phase: All submissions from our 6 Diocese will be synthesised into a single Aotearoa New Zealand document. The document will be then combined into an Oceania Document and submitted to the Synod of Bishops.
- Universal Phase: Each document from the 7 continents is brought before the Synod of Bishops where they discern the peoples voice to decide the direction of the Church moving forward.
Now, in the Diocesan phase, that is where our work is. Fr. Craig Butler, Local Administrator for the Diocese of Palmerston North has appointed 4 people to lead the diocese in this synodal process. Teresa Edwards, Diocesan Manager for Catholic Education, Nick Wilson, Diocesan Young Catholics Team Leader, Isabella McCafferty Diocesan Communications & Resource Coordinator and Fr. Simon Story, Parish Priest, New Plymouth.
You might think this is a little rushed. We acknowledge this might be a little unsettling. The fact of the matter is that materials have arrived later than anticipated from the Synod of Bishop’s organising committee, so we framing up our own process of how to do this.
Right now, we are preparing for the listening stage. That starts with this meeting today to brief the synod and its process. On Monday 25th October, there will be a pack sent to you all on the initial email list.
On Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th at 7pm we all will have the opportunity to hear input from Lucienne Hensel, Archdiocese of Wellington on the process. This will be by ZOOM. You will be sent an invitation to this input via email.
Our Diocesan consultation phase will start on the 1st of November and run for the entire month of November. This is because the synthesis for the NZ Bishops needs to be completed by the end of January. Clearly, the northern and southern hemispheres are at different seasons of busy-ness, and we in the antipodes need to fit into the northern hemisphere’s timetable.
Where to from here?
In the meantime, we invite you to look at the diocesan web pages dedicated to the Synod on Synodality.
1) We will email the links to you for the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions with Lucienne Hensel.
2) We invite you to distribute this invitation and all information to date to your
St Vincent De Paul Groups
Knights, Hibernians and Catholic Womens leagues
Social Justice Groups
Ministers of Word and Sacrament, includes Ministers to the sick
Different Ethnic Groups and communities
Charismatic groups and communities
In aid of the idea that the invitation of the synodal process is before all people in our communities
This includes everyone who is everything from:
Adherent, Attender, Affiliated, Associated, Apathetic, Anti, Alien (to whom the church is alien)
3) Check out our resource links
Also, the Official Synod Website, where the Preparatory Document and the Vademecum documents are available to download.
More resources will be uploaded to our Diocesan Webpage as they come available.
Groups and individuals will be able to participate in this synodal process, which is to be managed at parish level. We are in the final stages of finalising the resources, that will be sent out on Monday in time for the Tuesday meeting with Lucienne Hensel, Archdiocse of Wellington.
We appreciate that when we send the resource Pack out, some level or support may be required.
We look forward to walking with you in this synodal process – one of the biggest events in the Church since Vatican II itself.
You can listen to an audio recording of this Introduction Session above.