7 May 2017
To: Clergy, Religious and People of the Archdiocese of Wellington
Last December I convoked a Synod for the Archdiocese, the second in my nearly twelve years as Archbishop. It will be held this year, in Wellington, from 15–17 September, and will explore the theme “Go, you are sent”.
Our theme arises directly from the commission Jesus gave his disciples, as recorded at the end of the Gospel of Matthew: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28: 18-20). This commission has particular relevance for today’s world, increasingly deaf to the joyful news of Jesus Christ.
My desire for our 2017 Synod is that we each come away with a renewed conviction of having been sent. The material we will study, reflect on and pray with, will remind us why we are sent and who we are sent to. I invite ALL of you to engage in the process of preparation because, baptised in Jesus, we are ALL his members. We are the Church. While roles and responsibilities are varied and diverse, each of us is a “living stone” in God’s house (see 1 Peter 2:5), and as such has a significant part to play.
We live in a privileged time with the leadership of Pope Francis, who four years ago told us that he wants “a poor Church for the poor”. This is, of course, a vision that comes from the early times of Christianity. Pope Francis has also said that he wants the Church to reach out to the peripheries, the margins. He invites us “to be bold and creative in rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in (our) respective communities” (Evangelii Gaudium 33).
Let us take his invitation into our Synod, exploring how we might boldly and creatively reach out to the marginalised, refugees, the wider Christian community, youth and families. The Church has a mission to serve the community beyond itself. We must never confine ourselves to self-service or self-preservation.
What does God want from us? The answer relates to TRUST: to trust God and to trust one another. People who have learned to trust are not anxious; rather, by trusting, they have the strength to get involved, to take a stand when someone says something disparaging, evil or destructive. Most importantly, they have the heart to say “yes” when they are needed. In this family of the Church, God wants us to know that he is on our side. God strengthens us. Not one of us can do some great work, whether reaching out to the poor or the homeless, standing alongside a stranger or someone marginalised, or leading a community, and say that we are doing that on our own. If we don’t acknowledge that we are receiving supernatural support, divine strength, grace, then arrogance takes over and we act as though it is all our own work.
God wants us to trust in his help and his power. Remember, the commission Jesus has given us carries the promise, I am with you always. We must hold fast to this assurance and trust that, with him, we can influence the society of which we are a part, especially the suffering and injustice that engulfs much of it, transforming it to reflect the purpose for which it was made: a home to truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace. (Preface: Christ the King)
We are called to be co-workers. That is our mission, the purpose of our being sent. Our responsibility is global as well as local. Being Catholic is not just about going to Mass and saying some prayers; it is about applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. That, in turn, means helping one another to be formed and sent to build a better world. It means supporting one another as we take a fresh look at the call to serve and where it might take us, “lace up our shoes” and joyfully respond to the commission, Go, you are sent!
The participation document, which will be available this week, will enable everyone to participate in the Synod process, individually or in groups. Your responses to this material will determine what the 350 people who attend the Synod will consider, so we need everyone’s participation and input.
Please pray that our September Synod might create the groundswell needed for our local Church to respond with eagerness, generosity and joyful trust to God’s call to us, here in this place at this time.
I look forward to serving alongside you as we journey and pray, acknowledging the words of Jesus, apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
With every blessing
+ John Cardinal Dew
Archbishop of Wellington