By Ailbhe Conneely
Social Affairs & Religion Correspondent
RTE - Ireland's National Public Service Media
Prayers will be offered by Catholics in parishes across Ireland this weekend in thanks for the diocesan phase of the Universal Synod.
The Synodal Pathway is the Catholic Church's process of renewal worldwide at the invitation of Pope Francis.
As part of their preparatory work, Irish bishops held a public consultation between Easter and Pentecost in 2021.
The diocesan phase involved individuals and groups coming together to listen, discern and engage in "a renewed commitment to being a missionary Church".
All dioceses have now compiled feedback reports based on their local listening sessions.
Diocese of Elphin
Organisers: David Carroll and Ursula Halligan
Facilitator and Report Editor: Ursula Halligan
On Saturday 9th April, at the invitation of Bishop Kevin Doran, a group of 10 people who identify as LGBT+ met in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon, to contribute to the synodal process.
The ten comprised of four women and six men, all of whom either live in the Diocese of Elphin or have some connection with it.
The focus group began at 10.30am and concluded at 4.30pm. It considered three questions.
Q 1. What is your personal experience of the Catholic Church and to what extent has it been nourishing and life-giving?
Q 2. Christian community needs to be both a place of listening to God’s word and a place where people feel heard. Has this been your experience? Have you felt heard and respected by the Catholic Church?
Q 3. What changes in the church do you think are needed to make it a place where LGBTI+ Catholics can feel safe, respected and able to flourish as human persons in the world?
All the participants drew upon their lived experience of the Catholic Church and spoke graciously and with courage in response to the questions posed. There were moments of profound insight as well as tears, anger and laughter.
A synthesis of the feedback received along with a representative selection of direct quotations giving prominence to, and allowing the voices of the participants be heard, is included in this report.
The consistency of the responses that emerged was striking and from an early stage a number of key themes became clear.
Assembled by Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) for the 2023 Synod Bishops https://catholicchurchreformintl.org
October 2021 – May 2022
On October 10, 2021 Pope Francis officially launched the Vatican's two-year synod process in an opening Mass where he urged the global Catholic Church to master the "art of encounter."
"Everything changes once we are capable of genuine encounters with [Jesus] and with one another, without formalism or pretense, but simply as we are," said Francis in a homily in St. Peter's Basilica.
The "art of encounter," said Francis, is marked by listening and seeking to understand the other.
This is a "time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build rapport, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers," Francis said.
In this spirit, Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) invited members from its local Eucharistic communities to gather together to talk about the “good, the bad, and the ugly” in the Catholic Church and offer suggestions for how to "Keep us from becoming a 'museum church,' beautiful but mute, with much past and little future." — Pope Francis
It is towards this end that we offer the stories contained herein. We hope that you will, like Jesus, “listen not just with the ears, but with the heart. When we follow Jesus in listening with the heart, people feel they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to recount their own experiences and their spiritual journey.” – Pope Francis
“Let us not soundproof our hearts; let us not remain barricaded in our certainties,” he pleaded. Instead, “Let us listen to one another.”
May your journey be enhanced, and your heart be moved, by these stories.