Opening Mass of the worldwide synod

NauMai September 2021 On 24 April, 2021, Pope Francis approved a new synodal programme for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops entitled: ‘For a synodal Church:…

NauMai September 2021

Cardinal John Dew Archbishop of Wellington Apostolic Administrator of Palmerston North Diocese

On 24 April, 2021, Pope Francis approved a new synodal programme for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops entitled: ‘For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission’. The path toward the celebration of the Synod comprises three phases between October 2021 and October 2023: a diocesan phase; a continental phase; and finally a conclusive phase at the level of the Universal Church.

To emphasis that this synodal path is a shared journey, next month on Sunday 17 October every diocese in the world has been invited to celebrate Mass for the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the theme ‘For a synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission’. Pope Francis will have already celebrated the opening Mass on the Sunday before, in Rome, 10 October 2021.

Francis wrote in his book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future published last year ‘Synodality starts with hearing from the whole People of God. A Church that teaches must be firstly a Church that listens.’

When the Synod of Bishops was established at the Second Vatican Council in 1965, I don’t think it was ever meant to be just bishops talking with one another. The vision was for the whole Church throughout the world to be involved. That was to happen through bishops listening to the people of God, and then taking their thoughts and ideas to Rome for prayer, reflection, and discussion on whatever the topic was. That is what Francis wrote in his book, which I have referred to above: 

‘Church must take risks to grow’, Pope Francis tells pre-synod meeting of youths for Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, 2018. Photo: Paul Haring/CNS

‘This synodal approach is something our world needs badly. Rather than seeking confrontations, declaring war, with each side hoping to defeat the other, we need processes that allow differences to be expressed, heard, and left to mature in such a way that we can walk together without needing to destroy anyone. This is hard work; it needs patience and commitment – above all to each other. Lasting peace is about creating and maintaining processes of mutual listening. We build a people not with the weapons of war but in the productive tension of walking together.’

The archdiocesan Mass on 17 October will be at St Teresa’s Pro-Cathedral in Karori. All parishes will be invited to pray for the success of the Synod in some way on that day. We will also have a chance to participate in prayerful reflection on what a synodal Church looks like and how we grow in communion; and how we participate in the life of the Church and engage in the mission that belongs to all the baptised. We do this by prayerful listening, being open to and guided by the Holy Spirit. 

The Church is never just about us wanting to get our own ideas heard; it is about listening to ‘what the spirit is saying to the churches’. It has been said that ‘Humility is the key to synodality’. I believe this is true, and I believe I have seen that humility in Pope Francis. 

I have been very privileged to have seen Pope Francis at synods telling everyone present not to be afraid to speak with ‘the parrhesia of the Spirit, in trust, frankness and courage’. Pope Francis comes to synods completely open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and trusting that all will be well. He never attends with fixed ideas or with foregone conclusions, he trusts in the work of the Spirit and wants us to do the same. 

That’s why he wrote in his book Let us Dream, ‘Time belongs the Lord. Trusting in him, we move forward with courage, building unity through discernment, to discover and implement God’s dream for us, and the paths of action ahead.’

When you are invited to be part of the worldwide process will you come with humility, ready to pray and ready to listen to the Spirit of God and to one another? 

The opening Mass for the Synod of Bishops, will be celebrated for the Archdiocese of Wellington on Sunday 17 October, 10am, at St Teresa’s Pro-Cathedral, Karori. 

For the Diocese of Palmerston North the Synod opening Mass will be cerebrated on Sunday 17 October, 6pm, in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

Read more: The Church yesterday, today and tomorrow

Fitzgerald awards for service in the Archdiocese

Since 2000, the Archdiocese has at various times honoured and acknowledged local people for contributions to many aspects of parish life. In 2010, these awards became known as the ‘Fitzgerald Awards’, after a prominent layman, Dr John Patrick Fitzgerald, who did much for Church in Wellington during the 1840s.

Cardinal John Dew wrote to parish leaders on 28 July, advising he wished to continue the awards’ process ‘as good for our communities to commend some of our often-unsung heroes’. 

In consultation by Cardinal John with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and Council of Priests the Fitzgerald Awards will be presented by parish leaders at local parishes on International Volunteers Day, Sunday 5 December.

Cardinal John has invited parish leaders and their parishes to nominate parishioners who have ‘faithfully and generously served the Archdiocese Synod ’17 call ‘to go out to the peripheries’, in one or more of these areas: Celebrating God in our Lives; Sharing our Living Faith; Growing in Community; and Working for Justice and Peace.

Parish nominations, with brief citations, are due by Friday 1 October to Christine Walkerdine: at the Church Mission Office.

The Archdiocese will provide parishes certificates or plaques and a suggested prayer or blessing nearer to the awards in December. For more information, please contact Christine Walkerdine. 

Dr John Fitzgerald was born in Dublin and trained in medicine in Scotland and London. He arrived in Wellington on one of the earliest ships, the Oriental, in January 1840 as a consulting surgeon to the New Zealand Company. He soon gathered the little Catholic congregation to pray on Sundays, and became a tireless leader of the lay committee, which successfully ran the parish until the arrival of Fr Jeremiah O’Reily in 1843. Dr Fitzgerald mastered te reo Māori language and he became Medical Superintendent for the new Colonial Hospital in Wellington. He later went to the Cape of South Africa and he eventually died in England.