An Educational Series for LGBTQ Catholics & Allies about Engaging the Synod on Synodality
THE ARCHDIOCESE OF DUBLIN REPORT
This report outlines the steps and stages in the Synodal Pathway of the Archdiocese of Dublin, and captures the treasures shared by people in the Archdiocese as groups and gatherings discerned the voice of the Holy Spirit. The introductory section details the milestone moments and turning points in the process, as well as the spiritual dimension of the pathway. Following on from this, the report explores some of the interesting, innovative or enlightening elements from the feedback and then moves to concerns, difficulties or challenges that were raised. The trends which emerged are presented within the synodal framework of communion, participation and mission. Finally, the concluding remarks describe pastoral steps that can be taken from what the Holy Spirit is saying to us.
A synthesis of feedback from across the diocese
In September 2019, Bishop Marcus presented to the Leeds Diocesan Pastoral Council his wish to initiate a synodal process to assist in planning for the future mission of the diocese. To facilitate this process, which has since been called ‘From Parish to Mission,’ the bishop established a steering group, comprising both laypeople and clergy. The steering group considered various models of processes used elsewhere in the UK and Ireland. It was decided to commission a series of listening exercises in every parish, facilitated by trained volunteers. Online questionnaires would be published too for individuals, school groups and members of the various pastoral organisations in the diocese to complete.
With the onset of the Covid pandemic in early 2020 it was not possible to conduct the process within the original timeframe, however the planning continued and, at the beginning of May 2021, Bishop Marcus announced the process to the clergy. On 20 May 2021, Pope Francis published his mandate for the Universal Church to engage in the preparatory work for a Synod of Bishops in 2023. The clear link between the two initiatives enabled them to run as one process, with the preparatory work for the Synod of Bishops as the first phase. Bishop Marcus issued a Pastoral Letter read throughout the diocese on the weekend of 6/7 September 2021, detailing the process that the diocese would follow.
The Bishop concluded the letter by asking, “all the lay faithful, consecrated religious men and women, and clergy of our diocese, first and foremost to pray that Almighty God will grant us the Spirit of Wisdom to discern His will for the Church in this diocese and to understand how we can serve Him more completely in the work of evangelisation. Please pray for our Holy Father Pope Francis and for all the bishops of the Church as they prepare for the Synod in 2023. I hope and pray that all the members of the family of our diocese will participate positively in the Synodal process and maintain a spirit of mutual trust, common faith, and a shared purpose.”
On the weekend following the Pastoral Letter, specially designed Prayer Cards were sent out to every parish for distribution among the faithful and religious in the diocese. The card contained the prayer Adsumus Sancte Spiritus provided by the Synod Office of the Holy See. The bishop encouraged everyone to use this prayer daily and particularly at the commencement of all meetings within the diocese.
The listening sessions needed to be completed by the middle of January 2022 and would require the assistance of at least 60 facilitator volunteers. Within a brief period over 80 people volunteered for this role. This response was a great sign of encouragement and evidenced a desire on the part of the faithful to engage with the synodal process. The volunteers attended two days of training at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Hinsley Hall, on Saturday 16 and 23 October 2021.
The training for the facilitators was provided by the British Province of the Society of Jesus. The volunteers expressed great appreciation for this training and stated that it equipped them well for the task ahead. Particular gratitude was articulated by the volunteers for the training they received
in leading groups of people in prayer. Bishop Marcus had asked that the listening process be rooted in meditation on Sacred Scripture, the liturgy, and prayer. It was established, therefore, that each session would begin with at least 20 minutes of prayer led by the facilitators. The trainers provided the volunteers with clear guidelines for leading the prayer and supplied them with comprehensive notes for facilitating each of the 90-minute listening sessions.
Meeting dates for each parish within the diocese were agreed with the respective parish priest and the group of 3 volunteer facilitators designated for that parish. No volunteer facilitated a meeting in their own parish. Between the beginning of November 2020 and mid-January 2021, 78 parish meetings took place, attended by 1,149 parishioners. Clergy were encouraged to attend the parish meetings and to journey together with the lay faithful on the Synodal pathway. During the meetings, the participants considered 10 questions based on the 10 thematic nuclei provided by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. The facilitators then submitted a verbatim report to the diocesan synodal team. Each parish priest received a copy of the report from their parish meeting. There was a separate facilitated meeting for the religious of the diocese and a verbatim report of that meeting was submitted also to the diocesan synodal team.
In parallel with the parish meetings, three versions of an online questionnaire were published on the synodal section of the diocesan website. Those completing a questionnaire were urged to begin the process in prayer. The first questionnaire was for completion by individuals; the second by groups of high school pupils and staff in all our schools; and the third by members of the various diocesan pastoral organisations. In total, 709 group surveys were completed, involving 3,901 people. The synodal team also received over 40 written submissions.
A synthesis team of 10 people, comprising lay faithful and clergy, drafted a synthesised report on each of the questions. These identified the main themes that had emerged, the most common practical suggestions for the local and universal church, as well as any discordant points of view. A further team of 6 sought to identify from the 10 syntheses what joys, difficulties, obstacles and wounds to people’s life of faith in Jesus Christ had been highlighted during the process, as well as insights and suggestions for change. All of this took place within a spirit of prayer and openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Marcus formally received the report from representatives of the volunteers at the Diocesan Pre-Synodal gathering with Mass celebrated in the Cathedral on Saturday 2 April 2022. The report was then submitted, along with the bishop’s own discernment and reflections, to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.