Where are we now?
The Synod Journey towards April 2016 has reached a critical juncture. We are now coming to the end of the ‘See’ stage in which Listening has occurred to gather the issues of the people as expressed by the people. Since early Spring 2015, the delegates have been actively engaged in a variety of methods of listening in their own communities. Parishes, schools, hospitals, universities and many other groups have used questionnaires, focus groups, informal listening and various other means to gather the views of people throughout the diocese.
We are now entering the ‘Judge’ stage which involves discernment to identify what God is calling us to address from the issues raised. Its central decisive moment is the selection of themes for the Synod. On October 3rd the results of the Listening/See phase and the various themes it produced will be presented to the delegates to provide them with the opportunity, through a process of discernment, to determine the themes which will be brought forward to the Synod in April 2016.
This October gathering is a discernment day and pivotal moment in the overall Synod process. The delegates will be tasked to discern the agenda for the Synod from the results of the listening stage. Those results are currently being thematised and will be presented within a prayer-discernment setting. This will move into a voting process where six themes or so will be prioritised by the delegates for the Synod – six pastoral concerns that the delegates judge are the ones that God’s Spirit is calling us to address in the Synod.
The Synod itself over three days will focus on these concerns through a range of proposed concrete actions. These proposed actions will be developed between October and the Synod in two stages.
The first (pre-Christmas) stage address the theme ‘People of Limerick – People of God’. People of Limerick will be an exploration of the reality of life for people in the diocese in relation to the six pastoral concerns and includes the presentation of research by Sir Harry Burns, the Geography Department of Mary I, Eileen Humphries. It will also include diocesan statistics around clergy numbers age profile, parish structures etc. People of God will be an exploration of who we are as church in Limerick and what is the gospel call in relation to the pastoral concerns. The joint exploration of who we are as a diocese will set the broad framework for the post-Christmas work of developing specific proposals.
The second (post –Christmas) stage will consist of a series of six ‘open space’ events – one for each of the six Synod topics. Delegates will be invited to attend whichever events they have particular energy for. These events will cover the following:
- An overview of the reality of the issue for the people of the diocese and of the gospel call
- A process by which people gather around and develop a variety of proposals for action
- A prayer-discernment process that identifies the proposals to be brought to the Synod. (This can include proposals that are in tension with one another.)
At the Synod each of the six pastoral priorities will be addressed as follows:
- A summary of what the issue is, who it is of concern to and why, and what we have learned about this issue through the Synod preparation
- An introduction to each of the action proposals
- A process of discernment, discussion and voting based on a transparent set of protocols (to be developed)