National Synod process ‘opens new horizon’ for Church in England & Wales
By Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp
The National Synodal process in England and Wales begun in October 2021 comes to an end with the publication of the National Synthesis on Monday evening. This Synthesis is the result of the consultation of thousands of people and just as many pages of diocesan reports that were the groundwork for this document.
Members of the hierarchy and representatives of the Diocesan Synodal process took part in a National Synod Day on 1 June to give their feedback on the first draft of the Synthesis prepared by a 9-member team. Connecting this gathering, which took place between the Solemnities of the Ascension and Pentecost, to the nascent Church gathered in the Upper Room, helped provide the necessary synodal atmosphere. All of the feedbacked collected that day contributed to a revision of the first draft of the Synthesis that had been presented.
Highlights from the National Synthesis
Some highlights from the final version of the National Synthesis are: the number of quotations included from diocesan reports; an overview of the Synodal process, frank discussions on the wounds the Church bears coupled with an evident “passion for the Church”, a tremendous thirst for formation so as to participate actively in the Church’s mission, acknowledgement of the need for transformation and conversion in the Church in order to live up to its own mission, the inclusion of the voices of “marginalized groups” within the Church, and a profound desire to continue the synodal journey that this synodal process has begun. In short, the Synthesis Document, summed up the synod experience thus:
This report, together with a response from the Bishops of England and Wales currently being written, will move forward to the regional European level. The report will also be sent to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. All reports received will contribute to the draft of the Instrumentum Laboris for the next Synod of Bishops.
Synod Diocesan leader’s experience
Fionnuala Frances helped organize the Hallam diocesan synod process. She attended the National Synod Day on 1 June. As cleaning staff cleared away the dining area, Fionnuala shared with Vatican News what it was like being part of the Synod Process at the diocesan and national levels.
“When I heard about the Synod, I got so excited”, Fionnuala began. She then immediately applied for the job to help organize the Synodal process in the Diocese of Hallam in Southern England. “If it’s going to happen in my diocese, it’s going to be done properly. So, I’m going to do it”. She describes the process as “fantastic”. A natural introvert, Fionnuala “had to talk to loads and loads of people. And it's been lovely”, she concluded.
People passionate about the Church
Fionnuala described the conversations in the parishes as “heartwarming”. People were “so open and welcoming of me – and I was just turning up to these meetings that they'd sorted out in their parish. And they were so welcoming and saying, ‘Oh, tell us what it is’. And then they were doing it, and then they were thinking about it, and reflecting on it”. The people who participated were “so warm and so passionate about their love for the Church”, Fionnuala explained.
‘The Holy Spirit hasn’t left me alone’
As part of the job as Synod Diocesan Leader, Fionnuala helped draft the synthesis of the parish reports for the Diocese of Hallam. “Throughout the whole thing the Holy Spirit hasn't left me alone”, she said commenting on the drafting process. “I haven't had a night’s sleep. I’ve woken up in the morning full of ideas. I felt my heart burning within me just to do it”.
Healthy conversation about differences
Being able to meet with her peers and provide feedback regarding the National Synthesis “was challenging…in a good way – that I was meeting with people who have different ideas from me and come from different places. It's reconciling those ideas that feels impossible and to talk about how impossible it feels with the group and to say, ‘Well, we can't find consensus on that’, was so…healthy to have that conversation and to tolerate it…. It could easily have been a group that were all in agreement with me and I would have got a lot less from it, I think”.
‘Confident’ in the Synod process
Having been through the Synodal process in England and Wales, Fionnuala says she has “every confidence in the Holy Spirit, absolutely every confidence”. Her confidences rests on the fact that the National Synthesis, “represents what we said in our diocese and what people said, ‘they'll never let us say’. My mother was so delighted when I showed her the draft. She said, ‘I can’t believe it…. They’ve said all those things. You should really be quite pleased’. And I am really pleased”.