(Fourth in a Series about the people of the Diocese of Fall River participating in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.)
What will I say at a Parish Synod meeting? What am I going to be asked?
Father Craig Pregana, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro, phrased it quite simply in a recent homily: “If the pope were here today, what would we want to say to him?”
For many, a simple direct question like that will be enough to recall some great or not-so-great Church experiences that speak to where the parish or the broader Church is in 2022. For others, it might be the opportunity to share a dream of what we can be as Church in the future.
Whether many responses to a simple question or a more structured process, the conversations in diocesan parishes will help address the fundamental question(s) posed to the Church in the Global Synod.
1. How is “journeying together” as a people of faith happening in our local Church today?
2. What steps might the Holy Spirit be inviting us to take to grow in our “journeying together”?
Each local Church community will take its own unique approach — a simple question, a series of thought-provoking narratives, a pen and paper questionnaire, etc. Getting a sense of “where we are” and “where are we going” TOGETHER is at the heart of the gatherings.
To help respond to the fundamental questions, several “themes” or areas to the think about are suggested:
• Who are our companions in the journey? Are we missing anyone by their choice or our exclusion or indifference? How are we called to grow as companions?
• Who are we listening to? Who do we need to listen to?
• How do we speak out effectively in both our church community and the broader community? How might we promote more effective communication?
• How do we celebrate as a community in prayer and Liturgy? How do prayer and Liturgy inspire us in carrying out the mission of the Church? How do can we encourage active participation?
• How do we share responsibility in service of the Church’s mission — teaching, social justice, protection of human rights, etc.? How can we help and support each other in discerning and carrying out specific responsibilities?
• How do we dialogue with the broader community and other Christian denominations? How do we view differences? How do we collaborate? How do we learn from different points of view?
• How is authority exercised within our particular church? How do we identify goals, ways to achieve them and steps to successful execution?
• Are we synodal in discerning and deciding? What consultative and deliberative processes are followed to include people in determining our direction?
• Are we forming ourselves in synodality? Are we open to continuing on this journey of listening and on-going formation beyond the immediate moment?
Clearly, there are many ways to address the fundamental questions to provide direction as to how each parish, diocese and larger Church community will move forward in announcing and living the Gospel.
Parish Synod News
• Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich has embarked on a six-week process of introducing the Synod through homilies, bulletin articles on “What is the Synod About,” and “How Does Synodality Help Renewal” and consultations on March 6 and 13. Parishioners are asked to complete a questionnaire and bring it with them to the consultations.
• Immaculate Conception and Holy Cross parishes in Easton have begun planning joint consultation sessions in hopes of attracting a wide representation of people over the next several weeks.
• As a way to implement the synodal process in the life of the parish, the St. John of God Parish (Somerset) Pastoral Council and Finance Council met in January to address three questions. The first was an evaluation of the current state of the parish — “thriving,” “stable” or “failing.” The second asked “where the parish needs to go,” and the third how can people of the parish “be part of the change to improve the community of St. John of God Parish.” Parishioners are now being asked to respond to the same questions.
• Our Lady of Victory in Centerville held five parish consultations on the weekends of February 6 and February 13. In inviting parishioners to participate, Pastor Father Gregory Mathias noted “the unique nature of this initiative is that it is a bottom to top strategy rather than the typical Church hierarchical top to bottom mandate.”
• St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown held its first synodal gathering with parish leadership groups on February 13 and is inviting all members of the parish community to a gathering on March 19.
• St. Patrick’s Parish in Wareham is asking parishioners to consider “how can we as a parish do a better job of letting the voices of all our parishioners be heard.” Three discussion dates have been set — March 8, 15 and 22.
• Parish Ambassadors at Good Shepherd Parish on Martha’s Vineyard are leading six Synod meetings over a six-week period from February 9 until March 20. The sessions have been scheduled on weekdays (day and evening) as well as after Masses on weekends to accommodate as many people as possible.