What is a synod?
The word "synod" evokes the image of "walking together on the way". For the Church it is a time-honoured way of working out together the "navigation map" for the Church at particular times. Synodality is about the whole People of God helping each other listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church.
Background to the Synodal Pathway
On 10 March 2021, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced a new Synodal Pathway for the Catholic Church in Ireland leading to the holding of a National Synodal Assembly within the next five years.
Since Pope Francis hosted the 2018 Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in Rome, on the theme of Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, bishops in Ireland have been giving active consideration to calling a National Synodal Assembly for the local Church here.
Conversations at local, regional and national level have informed the work of a dedicated subgroup of the Bishops’ Conference which was established to further explore this idea. During their 2020 Winter General Meeting, bishops decided to proceed along a synodal pathway, and, since then, have been assisted and greatly encouraged by Cardinal Mario Grech and Sr Natalie Becquart, of the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops in Rome. Cardinal Grech and Sr Becquart addressed the Irish Bishops on the theme of synodality on 3 February 2021.
Context: Challenges and Hopes for the Synodal Pathway
Bishops are mindful of the challenges and opportunities that provide a context for a synodal pathway leading to a National Synod at this pivotal time for the Church on our island, which are outlined here:
Solidarity, Outreach to the Peripheries and the Promise of a New Pentecost
Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), together with his encyclicals, Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti offer a challenging framework for the Church of today and tomorrow – calling us in particular to solidarity with the poor, the excluded and those “on the peripheries”, who yearn for the Good News. This calling also includes initiatives of social friendship in favour of our sisters and brothers in other continents.
Speaking at the end of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park, Dublin 2018, Pope Francis encouraged the people of Ireland to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit:
“who constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes. Each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our Advocate, our Consoler and indeed our Encourager. How much our world needs this encouragement that is God’s gift and promise!”Pope Francis
Listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in an Ireland faced with rapid transformation
Secularisation of Society. A synodal pathway leading to a National Synod is inviting us to journey together in discernment of what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in Ireland at this time. We are acutely aware of the huge challenges to the faith over the past fifty years from the rapid transformation and secularisation of society in Ireland bringing with it a major decline in practice of the faith and in the number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.
Shocking Revelations. Like so many others we are appalled by the findings in published Reports into institutional and clerical abuse; the recent shocking revelations about Mother and Baby homes in Ireland – north and south – have further reminded us of the deep trauma felt by so many in the Body of Christ and the need for inner healing and hope.
The need to promote peace-making and a culture of welcome. One hundred years on from the partition of Ireland we also recognise the need for ongoing peace-making, the building of trust and reconciliation, and for a culture of welcome and integration for migrants and the many newcomers who have arrived to live on this island.
Listening to the Cry for Transparency. We hear a cry for transparency, greater participation and accountability in the Church.
Discovering the Family as “Domestic Church”. We see the tremendous potential for the support and renewal of faith within the family. The restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a new discovery of the family as the “domestic Church”.
Connecting with Young People. We are alert to the need to connect with the energy and gifts of our young people, forming and enabling them to be missionaries to each other and inviting them to spread the Good News not only in Ireland but around the world that Christ is Alive!
Honouring the Contribution of Women. While many women are very engaged in Church life in Ireland, we acknowledge the critical need to honour the contribution of women, to hear their deep concerns, to formally recognise their roles and articulate new models of co-responsibility and leadership involving all lay people – women and men. We are also aware that many people have left Church behind and in some cases feel ignored, excluded or forgotten – we need to hear their voices also.
Dromore Diocesan Synodal Core Group (DDSCG)
“The purpose of the Synod … is to plant dreams, … allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, … learn from one another.”
- Pope Francis
To meet the purpose of the Synod as expressed by Pope Francis; we as the Diocese of Dromore want to ensure by the end of 2021 the people of Diocese will have seen/heard about the Synod and have been provided opportunities to avail of a structured way in which to respond to the questions, feeling part of the Synodal Journey.
A core group made up of lay women and men, including young people, religious and priests has been formed to plan and coordinate the synodal pathway in Dromore Diocese.
Purpose of DDSCG – The Group was commissioned by Archbishop Eamon Martin at a Celebration Mass in Newry Cathedral on 16 October 2021. They have been tasked with preparing the Diocese of Dromore to participate in the Diocesan phase of the Universal Synod on Synodality. They will do this through developing
- To underline Communion, key messages to transmit include: “We are spread out across our entire diocese but God unites us as one”; “The aim is not for all of us to be the same, but to walk forward together, sharing a common path and embracing our diversity”; “The communion that God builds in our midst is stronger than any divisions”; “Amidst our many differences, we are united in our common baptism, as members of the Body of Christ.” To manifest Communion on the various levels of the local Church, parishes, movements, and different communities from across the diocese can be highlighted.
- To underline Participation, the lay faithful should play a vital role in the liturgy. Efforts should also be made to include those who may sometimes be excluded, including members of other Christian denominations and other religions, people who experience poverty and marginalisation, people who live with a handicap, young people, women, etc.
- To underline Mission, the many gifts and charisms of the People of God in the diocese can be emphasised. Key messages to convey are: “Every Christian has a vital role to play in the mission of the Church”; “All the baptised are living stones in building up the Body of Christ”; “No one is excluded from the joy of the Gospel”; “Lay people have a special mission in witnessing to the Gospel in all parts of human society”; “As disciples of Jesus, we are leaven in the midst of humanity so that the kingdom of God may rise across the entire world.”
Patricia Maguire (Co-delegate for the Universal Synod)
Mark McDonnell (Co-delegate for the Universal Synod)
Father Brian Fitzpatrick
Canon John Kearney
Father Desmond Loughran
Father Andrew McMahon
How you can participate
The core group will publish a series of questions, one at a time, on this website in the 'Participate' section. You will be able to respond to the questions and have your say.
A Pastoral Message from Archbishop Eamon Martin and the
Synodal Core Group for the Diocese of Dromore at the launch of the synodal pathway
Let us Journey Together!
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Last Sunday in Rome, October 10' 2021, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, invited Catholics all over the world to come with him "on a journey" as a "Synodal Church".
The word synod means "walking together". It indicates a way of being together as Church and "discerning" how best to spread the Gospel amidst the challenges of life in the 21st century.
On Pentecost Day the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, giving them the guidance and courage they needed to go out and spread the Good News about Jesus Christ to all the nations of the world. Like those in the early Christian Church, we pray together today, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us to discern what God wants of the Church in our time.
We encourage you to join us as we respond to Pope Francis call and set out on a synodal journey in the Diocese of Dromore. We want to involve as many people as possible so that we can harvest the ideas and wisdom of all the baptised and listen to the 'sense of the faith' that is alive in the People of God. Our challenge is to discern together what the Holy Spirit is telling us at this critical juncture in our history.
The theme which Pope Francis has chosen for the synodal process 2021-2023 is: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission. As Catholics we are spread across the world in many different communities, large and small, but God unites us all as one. To develop greater "communion" is not to expect everyone to be the same, but to overcome divisions and to walk forward together, sharing a common path. Even within our own diocese, stretching from Lurgan to Warrenpoint, there is a wide variety of parishes, movements, and communities. Hopefully, the forthcoming synodal process will bring us closer together and help us to recognise that we are united by our common baptism - as members of the Body of Christ.
The life of the Church will be much richer and more dynamic if all baptised Catholics can find ways to answer God's call and bring a variety of gifts to the service of all. Although the faith has been handed on for centuries in Ireland, we live today in a very challenging secular environment, where, sadly, many people do not know the joy of encountering, believing in, and following, Jesus Christ. Some have lost their sense of being part of the Church and others, for various reasons, may feel they no longer wish to be involved. It is therefore important that this synodal process will be an inclusive one where we listen to others who have many different perspectives. No one is excluded. All are invited and welcome to participate.
We pray that, as we walk together on this "synodal journey", we will find a greater sense of our shared mission to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ in faith, hope and love. How much the world today needs to encounter Christ and to understand how his Word gives "a reason for living', "a reason for hoping'! You, the lay women and men of our diocese, have a vital role to play in this. Sometimes the work of spreading the Gospel and building the Kingdom of God is left to ordained priests and deacons, or to those who are consecrated as religious. You, however, have a special mission in witnessing to the Gospel. As baptised members of the Church, as disciples of Jesus, you are called to act in the midst of humanity to bring the Kingdom of God to life in every facet of society,
Here in the Diocese of Dromore over the next few months, we will be joining the worldwide synodal consultation, seeking to understand how well we are "journeying together", and how we might, in our parishes and diocese, "journey better together". We will soon be inviting your responses to a number of questions. You can choose to answer these as individuals, as families, as members of your parish community or any other group. We hope to gather your responses via questionnaires, online and "in person" "group discussion, and a variety of social media platforms. This initial phase will lead to further opportunities for you to participate at diocesan and national level.
All the replies will be collated and sent in response to Pope Francis' invitation to the universal Church. As he said himself last week in Rome: "Let us listen to one another", and "Whenever we enter into dialogue, we allow ourselves to be challenged, to advance on the journey".
This is therefore an opportunity for us to listen to the Holy Spirit and discern what God wants from the Church around the world, in Ireland and in the Diocese of Dromore. Please God, it will lead us to renewal and to new life in the years ahead.
Thank you, in participation of your support. Let us journey together!
With blessings to you all,
Archbishop Eamon Martin,
with members of the Synodal Core Group for the Diocese of Dromore