Pope Francis has invited us to become a more synodal church, encouraging us to discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the Church, to build communion within it and live Church in a way that is more inclusive, participatory, and responsive to the needs of its people. The word “synod” refers to both an event and a process where people of God gather to discuss important matters relating to the life and mission of the Church. This can include clergy, religious and laity, as well as people from different age groups, ethnicities and backgrounds.
In March 2023, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, formally announced the convocation of a Diocesan Synod – the first for the Diocese of Parramatta, and the first local Synod to be held in Australia.
From May to July 2023, in the lead up to the first Diocesan Synod Assembly, all people from across our faith community were invited to reflect on their experience of Church, organise times to discuss with family and friends, engage in opportunities to dialogue, and submit their responses in person, online, and through deanery and parish listening consultations.
The submissions from these consultations and conversations were collected online, in person, or via mail and were synthesised by the Synod Writing Group. These submissions informed the development of the agenda and Synod Working Document for the first Synod Assembly, which was held from 13 to 15 October 2023.
Bishop Vincent has signed and promulgated the Synod Decree, which will set the foundation for the development of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
What happens next?
In January 2024, the official Decrees and Declarations will be launched, outlining the outcomes of the Synod. This will be used as the foundation of the development of the Diocesan Plan for a Synodal Church, which will be developed between February to July 2024.
The practice of synodality will continue throughout the process towards our new Diocesan Plan, with local and Diocesan Think Tank Sessions with local leaders, ministry teams, and engaged members of our Diocesan community.
Finally, in August of 2024, the Diocese of Parramatta will hold a Diocesan Gathering, to invite all the faithful of our diocese in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to discuss the implementation of the Diocesan Plan within our communities.
Pope Francis has called for a worldwide synodal process and has encouraged all Catholics to work towards making the Church a more synodal institution, meaning that it should be governed in a way that is more inclusive and participatory. He believes that this will help the Church to be more responsive to the needs of its people and to be more faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Synodality is about listening to and discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks through the whole people of God, not just through the clergy or a select few. By participating in the synod process, people from all walks of life are able to contribute to the discernment of the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the diocese.
Synodality is also about building communion within the Church. When people from different backgrounds come together to pray, listen, and discern together, it helps to strengthen the bonds of unity and community.
Prayer for our Diocesan Synod
O God, who always walks with us
on the journey of life, we call upon you
to lead us forth united.
Bless and guide our Diocesan Synod.
Keep us anchored in your love.
Open our hearts as we listen and discern.
Reveal to us the way we are called
to go out into the deep.
Give us the courage to pursue
the mission with bold humility.
May we experience renewal in our local Church today,
and for generations to come.
We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ,
who in the power of the Holy Spirit continues to guide your Church,
to the fullness of your Kingdom now, and forever.
Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us.
St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, pray for us.