For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission
Journeying Together
Pope Francis has launched a worldwide ‘synod’ process. Synod simply means ‘journeying together’. The Holy Father is inviting us to listen deeply to one another and to discern what God is saying to the Church about how we ‘journey together’. We will have our own synodal pathway, within our parishes and communities in the Diocese of Westminster, united with every diocese across the world. Then, after national and continental gatherings, the Synod of Bishops will gather in Rome in 2023 to reflect on what has been heard.

Meet. Listen. Discern.

W

e will begin by listening to one another here in the Catholic parish of Bishop’s Stortford, sharing our experience of travelling together in the challenging time of the pandemic. We will also consider our wider experience of journeying together, as members of the Church and alongside others journeying in the world.

You will be invited to take part in meetings and other activities in our own parish, with opportunities to take part in simple ways as well as group listening events. The Synod Diocesan team is also organising online listening events and events around the Diocese hosted by the Cardinal or an Auxiliary Bishop. Details of synod events, organised by both the parish and the diocese, will appear on this page.

These events will enable you to both speak and to listen deeply to others. It is important that we all prepare for our participation in the synodal pathway by reflecting on the questions further down the page.

Preparing to Listen from the Heart

‘Synodal dialogue’ depends on courage both in speaking and in listening. It is not about debate, but about discerning what the Spirit of God may be saying. Discernment is the attitude of people who believe that God is always present and active in the details of our lives. It relies on the conviction that he will reveal his plans and purposes to us if we make an effort to be attentive. It begins with listening.

Active Listening

The goal is to try and understand others as they are. The fundamental question is: “What is happening in the other person and in me, and how is the Lord working here?”

  • We listen to what is being said, not focussing on what we will say afterwards
  • We give full attention and presence to the person who is speaking.
  • We allow ourselves to be influenced and learn from the other
  • We welcome the speaker without judgment – each person is the expert on his or her own life. This requires humility, openness, patience.
  • We are able to sit with silence
  • We have an awareness that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the other person.

Speaking from the Heart

  • We sincerely express ourselves, our experience, our sentiments and thoughts.
  • We offer a generous gift to the other, in return for being actively listened to.
  • We speak about our own experience as we see it and as we live it, but do not impose our judgements on others.
  • We take responsibility not only for what we say, but also for what we feel. We do not blame others for what we feel.

Preparation questions

Pope Francis asks us:

  • How is ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church?
    What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our
    ‘journeying together”?

…you might also like to think about:

  • During this terrible pandemic what strengths did I find in my faith
    and faith community?
  • Who feels left out? What could we do better?
  • How do we choose priorities for our own mission?

Reflect on Scripture

The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24, 13-35)

“Two disciples were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast. Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days’. ‘What things?’ he asked.”

Reflect:

  • Jesus journeys with the disciples on the road. How do you experience your ‘journey’ with the Church community? With God?
  • Jesus asks ‘what things?’ What is your answer to Jesus – what things have happened on your journey?
  • Download Scripture reflections at www.rcdow.org.uk/synod

How to Participate

Overview of Diocesan Synodal Pathway

On 16/17 October 2021 the Diocesan Synodal Pathway was launched in Westminster Cathedral and in local parishes. Following this there is a time of preparation and training in parishes and communities (see www.rcdow.org.uk/synod for resources and training events). The local listening phase follows:

WhenWhat
Sunday 31 October – Sunday 5 DecemberSynodal Pathway events and activities in parishes/communities
15 November
7:00-9:00 pm,
20 November
10:00 am-12:00 nn,
24 November
7:00-9:00 pm
Online diocesan listening events: These are primarily offered as events for people who cannot attend listening events in their own parish/community. They will mirror the ‘three session’ process proposed in the ‘Group Synodal Conversation Guide’
Late November/ early DecemberArea Listening Events with the Cardinal and Auxiliary Bishops
Other moments of listeningThemed listening events for young adults, Ethnic Chaplaincies, Headteachers and the Social Justice & Peace Network
21 January 2022Return of parish/community submissions
Other moments of listeningThemed listening events for young adults, Ethnic Chaplaincies, Headteachers and the Social Justice & Peace Forum.
Saturday 19 February 2022Pre-Synodal Diocesan Gathering at the Cathedral
15 January to February 2020The voices of the Synodal Pathway from across the diocese are gathered together to inform the national, continental and worldwide phases of the Synod
OngoingParishes and communities continue to develop pathways of synodality as they develop their ‘journeying together’
October 2023Following the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, an implementation phase is launched across the worldwide Church.

Not able to attend the Listening Events? Complete the Questionnaire instead!

If you are not able to attend the Listening Events, you are invited to complete a short questionnaire, Share Your Thoughts. You can either download it or fill it in online. Hard copies can be found at the back of the church. Please ensure you return/submit the completed questionnaire by 30 November.

Your feedback, both from the Listening Meetings and the questionnaire, will be submitted to the diocese. They, in turn, will collect feedback from all parishes which will be put together in a document and sent to Rome for the synod taking place in October 2023.

Listening Events by the Parish

These are sessions lasting 50-60 minutes, to be held in the Parish Centre. A list of Listening Meetings is on the Events page. You need to book to attend any of the sessions, either online on the Events page or by calling the Parish Office. A leaflet outlining the questions you might want to think about in preparation for the meetings is available in church from this weekend, and you can also download it.

Area Listening Events

With Bishop Nicholas Hudson:

  • Eastern Area – Tuesday 30 November, 7.00pm – 9.00pm at Commercial Road Parish, Lukin Street, London E1 OAA
  • Central Area – Wednesday 8 December, 7.00pm – 9.00pm at Cathedral Hall, Ambrosden Avenue, London SW1P 1QJ

With Bishop John Sherrington

  • Northern Area – Wednesday 1 December, 7.00pm – 9.00pm at Golders Green Parish, 700 Finchley Road, London NW11 7NE

With Cardinal Vincent Nichols

  • Western Area – Thursday 2 December, 7.00pm – 9.00pm at Ealing Abbey, Charlbury Grove, London W5 2DY

With Bishop Paul McAleenan

  • Hertfordshire – Monday 29 November, 7.00pm – 9.00pm – at Garston Parish, Crown Rise, Garston, Watford WD25 ONE

Booking is required for these Area Listening Events through catadmin@rcdow.org.uk

Online Listening Events by the Diocese

‘The purpose of the Synod … is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another ...’
- Vatican’s Synod Preparation Document
“I encourage you to take this synodal process seriously and tell you that the Holy Spirit needs you. And this is true: the Holy Spirit needs us. Listen to it by listening to yourself. Don't leave anyone out or behind.”
- Pope Francis, 18 September 2021

Take time to pray

Pray quietly and invite the Spirit of God to guide you. Pray the Synod Prayer below.
The Synod Prayer
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever. Amen

Questions to prepare yourself for a parish conversation or a group listening event

How is our “journeying together” as the Church happening today in Bishop’s Stortford, Much Hadham and Sawbridgeworth? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”? In responding to this question, you are invited to:

1. Recall your experiences

  • What experiences of your local Church – including reflecting on the time of the pandemic – does this question call to mind?

2. Re-read these experiences in greater depth

  • What has the experience taught us about what it means to be Church?
  • “When we say ‘our Church’, who is part of it?”
  • How does your particular Church ensure you are part of the ‘journey’?
  • Who is missing?
  • What would you wish to celebrate about how your parish/community lives its mission?
  • What areas of mission are we neglecting?

3. Gather the fruits to share

  • What might the Holy Spirit be saying to us?
  • What steps might the Spirit be inviting us to take in order to make our communities more welcoming, inclusive and missionary?
  • Pastoral Letter

    Cardinal Vincent Nichols issued a pastoral letter on the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time on the Synodal Pathway.

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  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Questions that you might have on the synod are answered here.

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  • Cardinal's Homily

    Cardinal Vincent's homily for the opening Mass for the diocesan phase of the synodal pathway

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