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Parish Synod Review.

St Joseph’s Dinnington and Blessed William Richardson Kiveton Park

Responses to the Synod Questionnaire

Thank you to those who responded to the recent Synod questionnaire and those who shared their views in conversation, email or by telephone. The notes below emanate from those responses.

Thirty-four written replies were received, mostly from female parishioners with all respondents aged 45 years plus. The total number of parishioners who have been listened to so far is 39.

Some discussion took place with the Core Group regarding the low number of responses however it was agreed this was a representative sample to date.

Confirmed and agreed this Synod dialogue is far more than a three-month exercise. It represents an ongoing piece of workwhich can and should continue for years to come.

Agreed that St. Joseph’s is no ordinary parish; it is a forward-thinking community that has worked hard over time at addressing some of the many challenges of the church.Progress is being made.

Also agreed, we have no ordinary parish priest more an extraordinary priest who has shepherded his flock with guided liberalism encouraging and nurturing growth rooted in an understanding that God is Love. We thank him for his courage and commitment and for providing significant opportunities for laity to be empowered and involved in the life and liturgy of the parish.

The parish priest continues to have a significant workload and welcomes ongoing support; as a parish there is a need to further explore how this support can be brokered and workload shared.

Widely recognised are the outstanding talents, skills and abilities of our parishioners. We need to continue developing laity formation by providing opportunities for professional and spiritual development and by more frequent opportunities in shared ministry.

There is a strong emphasis on ‘belonging’ to the church family, social interaction is important and parishioners welcome, appreciate and enjoy a community approach. They want to be a part of the parish family.

The questionnaire is the very first part of an ongoing process, it is not simply about a Synodial procedure. An overview of responses are:

Section 1a) What is my dream for the future of the Catholic Church?

Most strongly agreed the Catholic church has been resistant to change resulting in a declining membership. This time of pandemic and associated problems represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. This is not entirely related to Covid 19 but additionally to wider issues such as scandals, clericalism, sexuality and a lack of female involvement and leadership in the church.

Of late, and certainly since the onset of Covid, several ‘regular’ parishioners have seized the opportunity of attending the ‘online’ celebration of Mass which has provided a valuable resource for many especially the aged and vulnerable. In fact, the online celebrations have created a greater opportunity for some to be involved who had not been able to attend church for whatever reason. The Zoom Mass remains a popular option for some, and gratitude was expressed to a parishioner for providing a consistent and high-quality technical service.

However, with renewed vigour and hopefulness the positive actions and intentions during lockdowns may be used to invite and welcome back many.

Some families have moved on; some have simply stopped attending and there was a decline in confidence in the local Catholic school. Since last year and following an Ofsted inspection the school is now judged to be ‘Good’, there has been a growing community confidence and numbers in school are increasing. Not all newcomers are Catholic, and some parents specifically request a church education for their children. However, there remains a challenge in terms of how many of the Catholic children in the parish do not attend St. Joseph’s. Some responses indicated that a partnership was necessary between parish, school and home for an holistic education in the faith. Young people need to be involved in liturgical experiences and must be given time for adequate catechesis in school if their faith is to be an encounter with Jesus.

Sometimes an ecumenical approach is evident and more specifically at BWR however this could be further developed at St Joseph’s. Good ecumenical working is based on relationships and trust, and often it can be informal and spontaneous. Different Churches serving the same community see an opportunity to come together and just get on with it as evidenced at BWR.

All noted the lack of vocations to the priesthood, a growth in the number of executive arrangements of one priest serving more than one church or parish and the difficulty in finding local supply priests. This had generally resulted in a shared concern about the future clerical guardianship of the Catholic church.

A unanimous view confirmed that the laity, working in partnership with the parish priest, could provide an ideal solution in co-sharing responsibility for leading liturgy and worship.

Church structures may be a barrier which limit the ability of the laity to be as effective as they could be. Some organisations in the church seem to be set in their ways so that things happen slowly, and people become frustrated. However, we have been blessed with positive experiences and opportunities in Dinnington.

Lay people, as part of the local community can offer support in ‘real time’ because they know people’s life circumstances.

Those who responded were aware of the need to continue their own spiritual and faith journey, nurtured by the Sacraments and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Every respondent felt most strongly that the role of women in the church was underutilised and undervalued, and it was about time their skills and expertise were more welcomed and used in a variety of liturgical celebrations.

The church needs to embrace this synodal journey even though it may be uncomfortable listening for some religious.

Change has to come from within and hopefully through prayer, discernment and the power of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis will be able to see a journey for the Church to take in the near future.

The process of sharing, teaching, modelling, being a forward-thinking Church needs reinvigorating.

1b) And for St. Joseph’s Church and Blessed William Richardson?

Despite some information being available on the parish website, promoted through the Weekly Bulletin and presentations given at both churches, some felt their understanding of the Synodial process was limited.

Mass is a moment of encounter with God. Scripture readings are well explained in a variety of creative ways making it accessible to most. So, there is a good connection made between what has been proclaimed and living the Christian life daily.

Those positively responding however welcomed another opportunity to express their views, share their opinions and ask appropriate questions.

There was solid recognition, appreciation and affirmation of both churches with all parishioners proclaiming their good fortune for being part of this special community. Most loved being part of the parish; and through Mass, liturgy, music and services the majority believed it had helped them move nearer to God.

A genuine commitment to world peace, the environment, live simply, equality and justice is evident, and parishioners demonstrate they care through their actions, contributions and prayer. All are welcome at St. Joseph’s and BWR and some parishioners make a real effort to extend a sense of invitation to those who attend.

Regarding being ‘marginalised’ most respondents felt the marginalised are nurtured in the parish community although there was a lack of clarity about who exactly are the ‘marginalised’? There seems a genuine effort to make sure that no-one is marginalised, however it is inevitable that some people will feel that they are, particularly at the moment and especially newcomers.

The majority of people have experience of family members and friends who have left the Church or find themselves on the margins. Views were expressed that it was important for those who practise their faith to know how to ‘meet people where they are’ without judgement or condemnation.

Communication is good especially with the newly constructed website and WhatsApp. A church website is the new front door for churches so it’s important this development continues. It’s almost always the first-place prospective guests go. Personal communication is always best, you can’t beat ‘word of mouth’. How do we engage with the hard to reach? And some of the youth of the parish?

Recognised is the generous giving of some members of the parish who work tirelessly for the church and widercommunity. More widely a number of parishioners either support a parish group or are involved in ministry. This gives an impetus to their engagement within the parish, a better understanding of the needs of those in poverty, and a wonderful sense of purpose in being able to put the Gospel into practice.

The church needs to continue to have a joyful uplifting positive presence. That doesn't shirk from difficult questions, situations, issues. It needs to embody compassion, forgiveness and try to show a non-judgemental side.

There was also an indication that support for the young people of the parish is crucial to the growth of the Church and a need for future investment.

1c) Can we as a community become more outward-looking, more missionary?

Already noted, most believe the parish is forward thinking and outward looking evidenced in a variety of ways. Discipleshipis strong, worship through prayer and praise to God and participation in the sacraments takes a precedence, fellowshipthrough a building of relationships within the church is seen as a strength and the mission or going out to share the gospel in words and actions is most noticeable.

Some express a genuine concern about life after Covid and the impact falling numbers may have on the parish. It appears we may have ‘lost a few’ during the last two years who may not return to the church. Additionally, in terms of finances and income, it could become more difficult to maintain the church and presbytery.

There is great potential in further developing ecumenical partnerships as we are all of one faith although different traditions. BWR, perhaps more due to local circumstances, have actively engaged in partnership programmes, shared services and training and social events. Could the model be further developed at St. Joseph’s?

Some parishioners have been recipients of a wide range of support from others within the parish. There has been great support for the sick and elderly in a variety of ways such astransport to appointments, hospitals or more locally, shopping. Some parishioners have been good listeners, affirmers, advisors and friends. Prayer remains of great importance in the parish.

‘We need to be more open to see through each other’s eyes. To stand in someone else's shoes. To truly empathise you need to hear the heartfelt cry, the soaring joy that comes from ordinary people, children trying to make sense of the World, Faith, daily actions ’.

On occasions there has been a strong appeal to be forward looking with rapid reactions to crises; not simply being proactive but having a vision with aims, words and deeds to back it up.

‘Ordination isn't necessarily required; recognition and blessing is ‘.

‘Each Community is like a band of disciples on an Emmaus walk, journeying through daily challenges. Often by listening to each other worries are shared, solutions found, respect and faith grows. Good is nurtured, thankfulness and hope alight and rests on those who are sharing together’.

St. Joseph’s in 3 words

•​Warm, forward thinking

•​Christ led family

•​Warm, reassuring, welcoming.

•​Homely, Non- judgemental, alive.

•​‘My caring family’

•​Father Andy Amazing!

•​Caring Family Concerned

•​Open to ideas

•​Accepting Friendly Warm

Other comments:

‘I dream the church will renew itself, be open, inclusive and more active as a result of listening to and working alongside all its members. That it truly acts on the intentions of the Pope through this synodal journey.’

‘The Pastoral System needs addressing, where there are'innocent' parties when there is a divorce’.

‘Rather than a 'prove yourself' review and judgement, there needs to be compassion’.

‘Male, 91+, so thankful for the Dinnington and BWR Community links. It's kept my faith alive, and I've felt the beautiful way people try to address the needs of those isolated / house bound’.

‘I have been uplifted joining some of the Divine Renovation conferences online and seeing what is happening around the country’.

‘My dream is that the Catholic Church needs to re-establish itself as a main line Denomination’.

‘Church needs to find ways of giving much needed support to overworked priests.’

Next steps:

To produce a report capturing the highlights of the Synod responses from parishioners.

To listen to the views of the Parish ‘Reflection Group’.

To arrange to meet with staff and pupils at St. Joseph’s school.(AMC)

To facilitate meetings with Parish groups; Caring Group, Baptism, First Sacraments, Confirmation and Child Minders, to listen carefully to what they are saying about the church.

To talk with the Youth of the parish to listen to what they have to say about the church. (AMC)

To liaise with St Bernard’s Chaplaincy to explore what’s happening at high school.

To model our next steps on the Liverpool outcomes. (19) maybe meet as a group to discuss?

Next Core Group meeting 8th February 2022 at 7pm.

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