A synod full of the Spirit’s energy, joy and ideas – what the workshops said

The Pentecost Synod drew some 350 delegates from parishes, and the archdiocese. They worked mainly in workshops throughout the weekend on six topics. In all topic areas there was a recognised need for ongoing education and formation in faith and for a rec

Cecily McNeill

The around 350 synod delegates went into six workshops to discuss such topics as community, ministry and local leadership, young people, liturgy, prayer and spirituality, social justice, and education. There were two distinct tasks for the workshops over the two days. On Saturday the groups were to dream about what the archdiocese might look like in five years. On the second day, the groups had to encapsulate their dreaming into achievable propositions. In all topic areas there was a recognised need for ongoing education and formation in faith and for a recognition of social justice as being at the heart of the gospel. Look for the full future statements and propositions from each topic area elsewhere on the Wel-com website: www.wel-com.org.nz

Social Justice

Social justice is at the heart of the gospel in 2010. The Eucharist transforms people to face the social justice challenges in society.

The two workshop groups in this topic area wanted to see an awareness of justice issues come from lifelong education in catholic social teaching.

People are empowered and mobilised to work on issues with other parishes and organisations including across wider Christian and faith communities.

They would express their faith through actions by being willing to get out of comfort zones and by being open to the risks and conversion involved in questions of social justice.

Respect for cultural diversity and different understandings of life would be important, valuing people for who they are.

People would affirm the importance of both social services and social justice and use the political system to bring about the resolution of structural injustices.

The groups were committed to a preferential option for the poor, vulnerable and disenfranchised.

‘We are committed to a consistent ethic of life, recognising the connectedness of all life.

‘We make a commitment to reconciliation and healing with people within and beyond the Church community, tangata whenua, addressing our history, people who have left or are excluded from the Church. “We must be the change we wish to see” [Mahatma Gandhi].

The topic facilitator, Sr Catherine Jones smsm, said many of the propositions from the social justice workshops were similar to those from other groups, particularly that liturgies reflect social justice in their structures and homilies. Consultation with young people was seen as vital in finding ways of working with social justice, as was formation in education.

It was important to recognise that social justice is integral to the gospel and to our catholic identity. People were struck by the enthusiasm that fired the propositions coming out of the future statements.

There was a need for ongoing education and formation in catholic social teaching and to help this, key texts needed to be translated into the different languages spoken in the diocese.

Establishing a contact person or group in each pastoral area or parish for an exchange of information within the diocese was important.

‘We probably need a bit more budget – perhaps a network of educators to work with the JPD coordinator.’

The question of reconciliation and healing of historic hurts was strong in the propositions, particularly concerning land and cultural integration.

There was a call for a diocese-wide synod on social justice in five years’ time preceded by regular meetings of key representatives.

Ministry and local leadership

Another group that wanted to commit to a summit meeting, the ministry and local leadership group, decided to come together in 18 months’ time to review what had happened and plan for the future.

This was a way of capitalising on the wisdom, enthusiasm, commitment and initiative generated at the synod, said topic facilitator, Sharron Cole.

The workshops on ministry and local leadership saw the archdiocese as being enlivened by the Holy Spirit, nourished by the Eucharist and collaborative in its leadership and ministry.

The leadership and ministry would be based on mutual respect, trust, listening, a commitment to work together and share responsibility. Each person’s gifts would be recognised and developed, resources would be shared and communicated effectively and there would be a reaching out inclusively to help, heal and offer hospitality.

The community would build on life-giving insights and values of the past and embrace the challenges of the future so that its world would be transformed.

Topic facilitator Sharron Cole said she was impressed by how well both clergy and laity listened to each other, contributed and really got to grips with what collaborative ministry means in an environment of mutual respect. The skills, knowledge and experience that all have to bring were acknowledged and delegates felt that these should not be wasted by being underutilised or not used at all.

There was a strong commitment to being more bi-cultural and multicultural recognising that the talents of many are not well used and that some people are not integral members of their parishes. There was also a sense of the richness that cultural diversity brings to the church.

The mood was towards more shared education, liturgy, and resources in pastoral areas.

There was a wide recognition of the need for all to be better informed and the stress on formation for all was great.

There was also an acceptance that this formation would need to come through a number of sources – certainly the Catholic media but also through workshops, seminars, the electronic media and homilies. This would need to be aimed at the whole archdiocese and be culturally sensitive and appropriate.

The need for a carefully managed change process, both at archdiocesan and pastoral area level, came through strongly.

‘I think this shows an awareness of the challenges of changing and the need to implement change in a considered and timely fashion. It is not enough to leave it to serendipity or to locally led initiative.’

Young church

Young people are involved at all levels of the Catholic faith community.

Activities which include young people are organised outside the ‘Sunday Church’.

Young people feel themselves actively Catholic by involvement in and/or initiating service and social justice projects supported by the community.

Young people have their own space to be creative and experimental in the expression of their awareness of God.

From this dream came the propositions a wish for active involvement in leadership and decision-making teams, and to be included in every dimension of the church’s life and mission.

Young people wanted intergenerational teamwork, flexible structures which meet their needs, regular forums with young people to discover their needs, physical spaces reshaped for creative worship with different expressions of faith explored and creativity encouraged.

They wanted shared resources, hospitality to be fundamental to the ministry of the community and their talents to be expressed and celebrated in the life of the community.

Liturgy, prayer and spirituality

Outwardly focused, listening and praying for the hidden voices within and beyond the community was a primary goal for the three workshop groups on liturgy, prayer and spirituality.

To be led by the Spirit was another important goal, and to be a spiritual, Eucharistic people who have the confidence to continue developing their own rites and ceremonies for many aspects of life and death, to celebrate the sacredness of the ordinary.

They wanted to be open and flexible in prayer and liturgy so that sacraments are connected to people’s lives.

In the dream statements this topic group presented after the first day, they wanted ongoing formation for active lay participants, affirmation of all leaders, lay and ordained and a greater understanding of the whakapapa of parishes and a commitment to be bi-cultural. They also wanted to recognise the creativity of young people.

At the end of the synod they proposed:

• Training and wider availability of spiritual companions;

• Training for lay men and women in preaching so they are better able to offer reflections at liturgies;

• A school of prayer for Aotearoa/NZ;

• Culturally diverse liturgies;

• Workshops to develop special liturgies for Aotearoa/NZ occasions;

• a stronger social justice outreach;

• greater understanding of Māori spirituality and tradition;

• young leaders to lead youth retreats during which a parish Eucharist would be celebrated.


The education workshops decided they wanted to be diverse and passionate in five years’ time. They would be grounded in the teachings of Christ and committed to lifelong growth in faith.

The archdiocese would comprisea reflective Spirit-filled people, outward-looking and mission-oriented, organised in small groups who pray, share, discuss issues to deepen their understanding of God’s revelation.

Leaders would have ongoing formation and access to resources, the community’s gifts would be encouraged and new ministries developed to meet identified faith needs. People would be supported and educated at key transition points.

From these came the propositions that small groups were an important tool. People told of moments when connecting with another person in a small group had enhanced learning for them and strengthened their faith.

Parishes should recognise that small groups are the lifeblood of their community. Life-long learning would then be fed through the small groups.

Another proposition came from the need for a body of expertise to feed education into parishes through the small groups, through workshops and seminars.

Young people needed their own space in which to meet their faith needs.

And social justice issues should be part of the learning process. People wanted to be able to discuss and learn about justice issues as they arose.

The group also felt the need for education at the major transition points in life – death and grieving were huge issues but also marriage, the birth of a baby, when teenagers ‘start acting out’ – to look at how a person’s faith is influenced by such events.


The future statement from the workshop on community began with the statement ‘In 2010 the followers of Christ will be characterised as a community on mission nurtured in a cradle of love to become a vessel of peace paddled on this spring of love.’

This community would be recognised by its unconditional love, its unity in diversity, inclusivity and vibrancy.

The community would be nurtured in its heritage, formed and informed by the Holy Spirit, nourished by the Eucharist. In turn the community would be welcoming, healing and forgiving, fully exercising collaborative ministry, committed to biculturalism, listening, active, reaching to the street, working in the world, bringing social justice alive.

The propositions from this future dreaming put the need for prayer at the centre.

People wanted to be taught how to pray, and to approach faith and social justice analysis in an adult way.

Topic coordinator, Mark Richards, said there seemed to be a real hunger for an inner life.

‘Our group went into prayer every time we started, and there would be a stillness for up to a minute afterwards. When we invited people to pray, we sang Veni Sancte Spiritus.

The groups also decided that the community was not insular but came together so it could then go out and serve. There was a link between a commitment to social justice and a commitment to active charity.

The cradle image was strong in this topic group.

‘A cradle grows us, forms us, feeds and teaches us, and then we become active. We are in the same waka, paddling together but we can be different.

The group recognised that there was an education process available and they wanted to use it to debate social issues and develop networks so the real issues would be debated rationally with people of good will.

There was also a deep pride and commitment to Archbishop John.

‘We like what you are saying, we like what you are doing and the way you are doing it.’