WelCom February 2017:
One of the major challenges this year brings the Archdiocese of Wellington is the work on the synod to take place in September. The Synod Planning Committee’s work is underway and Cardinal John Dew has asked each parish to pray the synod prayer at every Sunday Mass between now and 24 September. The synod, which involves everyone in the Archdiocese, is about planning for the future, discerning directions and about how the Church of Wellington will respond. This is the first synod convoked for the Archdiocese since 2006.
What is a Synod?
Cardinal John Dew announced the convoking of a diocesan-wide synod for the Archdiocese of Wellington late last year. Anne Dickinson explains the workings of a synod.
In the last three years there has been much Church publicity about the two synods on the family, held in Rome, and convoked – called together – by Pope Francis. A bishop may also convoke a synod in his diocese, as a means of providing space for prayer, reflection, and dialogue about the future directions the people of the diocese might take together with their bishop.
Pope Francis has described a synod as ‘a path of solidarity, a journey together… A synodal Church is a Church that listens, which realises that listening “is more than simply hearing”. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn.’
Church Canon Law sets out the framework for a diocesan synod. A synod is formally convoked by the bishop of the diocese when he judges the circumstances suggest the process is needed. ‘The circumstances’ could be the need to prepare a new pastoral plan, a pressing pastoral matter, the need to respond to changing diocesan demographics, to apply locally new directions in the global church, or to foster greater unity.
The bishop must consult his council of priests before convoking a diocesan synod and, in practice, there is usually wider consultation – for example, with the diocesan pastoral council – about the need for a synod.
As soon as the bishop decides a synod will be convoked he sets up a preparatory committee. The committee assists the bishop with deciding who will attend the synod, developing and implementing processes, and determining questions the synod will address. The committee also oversees the practicalities of running the synod.
At the time of convocation the bishop invites all the people to begin a period of prayer so that the synod might become a time of grace for the diocese. After the convocation and prior to the synod assembly, all the people of the diocese are invited to participate in deciding what will be discussed at the synod. The focus is pastoral and the diocesan pastoral directions are the subject of consultation. A diocesan synod cannot change the teaching of the Church or Canon Law.
After the diocesan consultation, the bishop, in consultation with the preparatory committee, determines the questions the synod will address.
The actual synod consists of the ‘synodal sessions’ attended by synod members. There is no prescription about the number of sessions or how often the members gather.
The themes or questions may be introduced by a speaker followed by free discussion. The discussion usually takes place in groups. Members are free to express their thoughts within established time limits.
A vote may be taken at any point to establish the degree of agreement among members on a particular question. Because the synod is a consultative body and does not have decision-making power, any vote taken does not have binding majority power but serves as an indicator of where the consensus might lie among members.
At the end of the synod, recommendations are made to the bishop who reflects and makes decisions based on the recommendations. The bishop is the sole decision-maker about the synod outcomes, knowing there has been wide consultation in the diocese and prayerful discernment by members. The implementation phase of the synod then begins and the bishop, in consultation with his advisers, makes the necessary provisions for this phase.
Prayer for Synod 2017
GO YOU ARE SENT
God, whose power is at its best in weakness:
You have entrusted us, in our frailty,
with the awesome privilege
of being your presence in our world.
You say to each of us: Go, you are sent.
In naming and sending,
you honour our ability to serve.
Yet we know our need of you,
even as we travel in the
echo of your voice: Go, you are sent.
Bless our Archdiocese of Wellington as we set out
and, as you have done for so many,
strengthen our weariness; steady our trembling.
May we never forget that you are with us
and joyfully answer your call: Go, you are sent.
We go, gifting your mercy, proclaiming your truth,
and celebrating your goodness;
our words and actions
revealing your face
to all we meet.
Blessed are you, God of the journey. Amen.
– Fr James Lyons