(Fifth in a series about the people of the Diocese of Fall River participating in the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.)

“The Synod is a process of Spiritual discernment, of ecclesial discernment, that unfolds in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God,” says Pope Francis. While the current consultations in the Fall River Diocese may initially seem like singular events, the synodal process is envisioned as an ongoing way of life within the Church. It continually seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer, listening and discernment. 

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., also sees the synodal process as an integral part of Church revitalization beginning at the parish level. “Conversations and efforts regarding revitalization must include all those who comprise the People of God in a particular place,” stated the bishop in his Journeying Together pastoral letter. “How good it would be to see all the faithful take a more active role in the transmission of the faith.” 

The bishop’s vision may be taking root at synodal consultations taking place across the diocese as some parish ambassadors at a recent “zoom meeting” reported back that participants are eager to see the process continue. While specific information will be extracted from parish meetings into a diocesan synthesis, the intent is that the expressions and hopes from each synodal gathering will be widely shared and serve as a basis for continuing discernment within the individual parishes. 

Parishes are the primary faith communities within the diocese, but not the only ones. Consistent with the Synod mission of reaching out to as many people as possible, consultations are also taking place in many other environments including colleges, schools, Religious communities, and Catholic Social Services agencies.

“If the parish is the house of all in the neighborhood, not an exclusive club, I recommend that you leave the doors and windows open; do not limit yourselves to those who frequent the parish or think like you,” the pope said in addressing representatives of the Diocese of Rome last September. “Let everyone enter. Let their questions be your questions; allow yourselves to walk together. The Spirit will lead you. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue; it is the dialogue of Salvation.”

Parish Synod News

• St. Patrick Parish in Wareham is asking parishioners to reach out to family and friends who are not regularly joining in Eucharistic celebration and invite them to participate in Synod consultations. Synodal sessions are set for three Wednesday evenings – March 9, 16 and 23.

• The parishes of Annunciation of the Lord in Taunton and St. Nicholas of Myra in North Dighton are joining together inviting attendance at one of two planned synodal gatherings — March 9 at Annunciation parish or March 16 at St. Nicholas. In urging attendance, Father David Deston stated: “Our goal is to strengthen our Church, our diocese and our parish so that we may be better disciples and may make the love of Christ, which flows from His Sacred Heart, more present in a world that needs that love more than ever.”

• St. Peter The Apostle Parish in Provincetown will begin the synodal process with Adoration on Saturday, April 2, followed by a parish listening and discussion session on Saturday, April 23. In the parish bulletin inviting participation, it is stated that “the process of Church Renewal begins with each one of us and our parish. It is time to reset, rekindle, reconnect, strengthen, revitalize and renew our Church and our parish.”

• Our Lady of Grace Parish in Westport will hold a synod “listening meeting” on Saturday morning March 5 following the 9 a.m. Mass.

• St. Theresa of the Child Jesus parish in South Attleboro has sent a synod survey to all parishioners and invited them to attend an in-person meeting on Saturday, March 12. 

• St. John the Baptist Parish in Westport has invited parishioners to two synodal consultations — Saturday morning March 12 and Sunday morning March 27.

• “Spring cleaning makes you think of opening up the windows, letting the stale air out and the fresh air in. This spring, we have a chance to do the same thing at our parish to help renew the Church,” say the parish ambassadors at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Wellfleet. Parishioners have been asked to mark their calendars for a synod meeting on Sunday, April 24.