Summary Response from St. Joseph’s Parish Dinnington to Synod on Synodality Diocese of Hallam
1.1 Describe how you have gone about the synodal process in your parish.
Discernment at Reflection Group and appointment of two parish Synod Representatives.
Core Synod Group established representing different elements and experiences of the parish community.
Attendance at Diocesan Synod Sessions and feedback to Synod Group, Reflection Group, Parish Priest and parish community.
A Synod Plan agreed with timescales and actions.
Synod Representatives address both churches explaining the Synod process.
Questionnaires agreed with targeted focus on engagement with all parish and wider community groups specifically including the youth and those considered marginalised.
A detailed analysis of responses from questionnaire and formal report produced for the parish.
Ongoing communication with a wide audience through the website, internet, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Visiting speaker delivered feedback to the parish community.
Prioritisation, development and implementation of a medium/long term future plan agreed by the Reflection Group.
How did you get people involved?
Reflection Group meeting
Email, word of mouth, phone calls, text
What questions were asked?
What is my dream for the future of the Catholic Church?
And for St. Joseph’s Church and Blessed William Richardson?
Can we as a community become more outward-looking, more missionary?
Describe St. Joseph's in three words.
1.2 Approximately, how many people have been involved in the process?
Any other comments about the process?
This Synod marks the very beginning of a process which will need to be developed for years to come.
2.1 What was the synodial experience like?
Despite publicity, the process did not attract as much participation, interest or involvement as expected.
Covid19 impacted negatively on the opportunity to engage more publicly with face-to-face meetings.
Some parishioners did not engage in the process particularly those who were not familiar with online provision or were unable to attend Mass.
Showed a clear consistency of views and opinions of where the Catholic Church is in the 21st Century.
Helped refocus on some of the future priorities of the church.
Affirmed some of the good practice already happening in the parish.
2.2 What were the joys and positives that came out of it?
A historic vision, rooted in pastoral development and empowerment of laity, is deeply embedded in the parish philosophy and life.
An affirmation of good practice and the forward-thinking vision of the Parish Priest who maximises opportunities for participation and engagement in parish life and liturgy.
People enjoy being part of this parish community.
They welcome a growing involvement in the life and liturgy in the parish.
The community is not afraid of taking risks, seeking solutions and rising to the challenges of celebrating their faith in a parish context in 2022.
Our relationships with God and each other are positive.
Parishioners are passionate in their support of the church despite the challenges, they work hard to support those in need and value the power of prayer.
2.3 What were the challenges or negatives that emerged?
Covid19 prevented face to face dialogue, some meetings and occasionally prayer.
Was sufficient time given to the consultation process?
Leaders thought the process was too rushed we could have reached more people had more time been given.
Maximising a full response from all parishioners.
'Here we go again'. Will this Synod make a difference?
The current church faces many problems, and some have not yet returned to church after Covid19.
Is the church really a 'Listening Church' and will someone listen to us?
All change in the Catholic Church is far too slow!
Some are cynical and wonder if there will be any change in the church in their lifetimes.
How do we encourage and empower the youth in our community to actively engage and participate more fully in the church?
How do we develop potential and offer quality formation for those wishing to lead in ministry?
2.4 What was the experience of prayer as part of the process like?
Church prayers, small group meeting prayer, zoom prayer and reflection, personal prayer.
2.5 What was the experience of listening like?
We have listened, uplifting, enriching at times. Will be challenging as the journey continues.
2.6 What was the experience of discerning like?
This is still ongoing, work in progress!
2.7 Do you think you reached a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit at work in your church/parish/group?
We recognised the Holy Spirit working in our parishioners through their skills, talents and abilities.
2.8 Any other comments on the experience?
Strong sense of belonging, parishioners wanted to be part of the parish community.
Feedback: Significant, surprising and unexpected?
3.1 What three things emerged that were significant?
We cannot plan for the future of our parish unless we embrace the call to look outwards and walk with people in the complexity and diversity of their lives. To do this in practice is very challenging and even more so if we respond to Pope Francis who does not want a Church that is concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.
Our steadfast parish view is the journey has begun as discipleship is strong, worship through prayer and praise to God and participation in the sacraments takes a precedence, fellowship through 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.
A unanimous view confirmed that the laity, working in partnership with the parish priest, should provide an ideal solution in co-sharing responsibility for leading liturgy and worship. Recognised, is the God given giftedness of the community with the skills and gifts that will help us for the challenges that lie ahead. Our next step is to identify what these gifts are, and how we can support and encourage those to whom they have been given. Also, how can we provide quality formation, to enable those identified, with the confidence, knowledge and skill to be effective custodians of the faith.
The synodal experience created opportunities to listen. Our Bishop and priests need to listen carefully to us the people of God and to what is being said. We must complement what we already have with new ideas, good communication and clear arrangements for taking our work forward. We must ensure that the Diocese/Parish remains connected to the realities of people’s lives, involves everyone and find ways to keep hearing the voices of young people and those who are excluded or oppressed by our society.
3.2 What three things emerged that were surprising and unexpected?
First surprising and unexpected
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.
Second surprising and unexpected
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.
Third surprising and unexpected
Despite effort and a range 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.
3.3 Which points of view seem to have strong repeated resonance?
Some express a genuine concern about life after Covid and the impact falling numbers may have on the parish.
There is great potential in further developing ecumenical partnerships as we are all of one faith although different traditions.
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.
‘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.’
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.
3.4 Which points of view were mentioned less but are interesting and noteworthy?
In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. That may involve social justice and meeting physical needs, but it also involves treating people with kindness, compassion in everyday life and attending to their spiritual and mental wellbeing.
While some will leave, it does not change the fact that the church has always gathered because the church is inherently communal. Additionally, what we can do gathered together far surpasses what we can do alone. So, while our gatherings might shift and look different than they do today, Christians will always gather together to do more than we ever could on our own.
Online church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to church. But there is something about human relationship that requires presence. Because the church at its fullest will always gather, online church will supplement the journey.
Assessment of impact
4.1 What synodality has the discernment process led to?
A strong sense of belonging and an openness to listening to each other.
4.2 What formation is needed to help people to embrace the synodal process as a new way of “being Church” going forwards?
Opportunities to gather in a variety of ways in different contexts to listen to each other.
Coaching, modelling of good practice from Priests, Diocese and other trainers.
Develop the ability of laity to lead a variety of service, celebration etc.
4.3 What areas of the Church need healing and conversion:
Dated Church teaching on a range of 21st Century topics such as homosexuality, celibacy, female clergy, premarital sex, birth control etc
God is love, ever forgiving, God wants us to be happy
Ecumenism. We are one faith but different traditions. Work together
Future role of Catholic schools
How do we solve the vocation crisis?
Effective communication across the world of Catholic doctrine and teachings.
Respect and acceptance for prayer in a wide variety of different forms. We pray as we can, not how we can't.
An open welcome and respect for diversity and difference.
Clericalism and dogmatic leadership at every level.
Sustaining and supporting all, through prolonged difficulties or need.
Open relationship with priest is critical in celebrating the Catholic faith and tradition.
Good personal relationships in the faith community and involvement and respect
Greater interconnectedness with other Christian churches
5.1 What practical steps does your community ask for to see the mission grow, in the parish?
A strategic pathway to implement key recommendations of this Synodial process.
Ongoing partnership and co-leadership with the parish priest.
Celebration of the skills and talents of parishioners and a programme of formation to support development.
Fully utilise the many skills and strengths of women in the parish community.
Ongoing partnerships with other churches, traditions and faiths.
Empowerment of the youth and frequent opportunities to listen of their voice.
Continued promotion of all parish groups.
Spread the word, all are welcome at St. Joseph’s.
5.2 How can the structures of the local church be developed for synodality?
In 1995 in 'The Sign we Give', a document from a Working Party of our bishops there is a call for "a complete overhaul of the culture of clergy-laity relationships" which need to be worked out in terms of "partnership, equality, mutuality, co-operation and collaboration".
In the years since then structures like pastoral councils have been put in place but, with some exceptions, they do not appear to have brought about a change in mindset or culture. For generations most of the laity have accepted the clergy as the experts, the professionals with authority and control. The clergy may have begun to listen and consult but either individually or in groups tend to make the final decisions!
This culture is deeply embedded and introducing new structures may have little long-term effect, but without a change in attitudes true synodality will not be able to be established. As a result, we will not see the hoped-for benefits in parishes and the diocese.
5.3 What structures of the national church need to be developed for synodality?
Acceptance of laity and encouragement to take more active roles in the church community.