A cry for more education and formation in faith and a recognition of social justice as being at the heart of the gospel were among propositions that came out of the Pentecost Synod held over Queen’s Birthday weekend in Wellington.
Archbishop John Dew invited some 350 delegates from parishes and archdiocesan organisations to plan with him for the future.
Under the theme of salt and light together, developed over 18 months of parish and pastoral area meetings and one-on-one appreciative inquiry interviews, the synod built on a wealth of grassroots information.
The synod started with a series of challenges.
Lisa Beech of Caritas asked how we could be a light to the world when 30,000 children die each day from poverty.
‘What does it mean to be the salt of the earth when millions suffer through violence and war? On our televisions every night we see the suffering of people in places like East Timor and Iraq.’
But, Lisa said, many people from this diocese have in the past spoken out about poverty and injustice. These included Cardinal [Tom] Williams’ opposition to the Employment Contracts Act, the commitment of Wellington Catholic Peacemakers Group to the foreshore and seabed hikoi, Archbishop John’s involvement in interfaith issues after attacks on people of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, the willingness of Petone parish to seek reconciliation with Te Atiawa over issues around the cemetery at Korokoro.
‘Pope Benedict doesn’t let individuals off the hook. He says “Love of neighbour grounded in the love of God is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful.” As the story of the Good Samaritan teaches us, we must still stop for the fallen stranger, whether they are in Hill St or at the top of Mt Everest.’
The responsibility for social justice lies with every level of the diocese.
‘Our individual responsibility may be about the person in front of us. But our collective response also has to be about the social structures which allow injustice to continue.
‘If Jesus of Nazareth really were Jesus of Wellington in the flesh today, where would we look for him? Maybe in the poorer parts of the city, where he might be hanging out with low-paid workers or street people, or at the hospital holding hands with people who have AIDS.
‘The gospels tell us these are Christ’s priorities,’ Lisa said.
Chris Duthie-Jung of the archdiocesan Youth and Young Adults Ministry, told the synod gathering the young must be the church’s priority by right of their full membership. Today’s parish communities risk being merely involved in ministry of maintenance ‘where we welcome [only] people who are prepared to become like us’.
‘True mission is to take the Good News out to all … especially, the young.
‘It is to ask how Jesus Christ is present and active in young lives.’ We have tried to cajol the young back into the church. Are we ready to accept the reality that the vast majority cannot find a home there?
‘Bluntly, sitting in our churches, we are not Good News for them. And they don’t find it good news when we coerce them into being with us.
‘Imagine a posse of teenagers turning up in your parish. They repaint the church building, remove the pews, unplug the organ, contemporise the artwork, install multimedia systems, reduce the frequency of Mass. If they met there regularly, during the week; socialised, discussed, prayed… because they’d made the place theirs would you be upset? If it looked like their kind of place and not yours could you cope?’ asked Chris.