22 November 2021, The Tablet

Walk with me – literally – says priest on 'synodal pathway'

Fr Daniel Seward is walking the synod pathway and sees it as following in the footsteps of the founder of the Oratorians, St Philip Neri.

Walk with me – literally – says priest on 'synodal pathway'

Fr Seward heads up a group of pilgrims.
© Fr Daniel Seward / York Oratory 2021

A Catholic parish priest is organising a ten mile walk and inviting laity to journey with him around the city of York in a literal response to walking the synodal pathway.

Fr Daniel Seward CongOrat, an Oratorian religious and parish priest of St Wilfrid’s, York, has responded directly to the Pope’s call for a synodal church by declaring his intent to walk the York Orbital, an eight mile cycle path accessible from across the city.  

In an announcement on the parish website, the Oratorian community at St Wilfrid’s referenced Pope Francis’s literal translation of synod as ”walking together” as inspiration for the physical journey. Speaking to The Tablet, Fr Seward revealed that the scheme had originated with an altar server at his parish, who said a priest in his native Lincolnshire had decided to do the same thing.

The Zambia-born Oratorian, a former school chaplain and provost of the Oxford Oratory, said he hopes to draw in faithful who may be disinterested in more traditional meetings. The walk, beginning after St Wilfrid’s regular 10am Mass on Saturday 15 January, is intended to involve meeting laity from the two territorial parishes, and one university Chaplaincy, ministered by members of the York Oratory.

Coming at the close of a pandemic period which has seen many limit their involvement in in-person activity, or even cease Mass attendance altogether, Fr Seward sees the journey on foot around his city as a demonstration of hope in the future.

Although the trek is along a well-known cycle path, it, like the synod itself, is about an openness to the Holy Spirit rather than to a particular destination. In this, he sees himself as following in the traditions of his Order’s founder, St Philip Neri, whose ministry involved walking around Rome, most famously beginning a tradition of journeying through seven Roman Churches at Easter. 

Middlesbrough Diocese, where St Wilfrid’s is located, has announced a synodal timescale in which parochial processes will conclude in a diocese-wide meeting where representatives will feed back their conclusions to Bishop Terry Drainey. They join dioceses across the country in placing lay responses at the heart of their local processes. Last week, the Vatican announced that the Council of the Synod of Bishops had decided to extend the national phase of the Synod until 15 August 2022, in order to ensure the whole of the Church enjoys “an authentic experience of listening and dialogue”. 

Track the progress of the 2021-23 Synod and compare diocesan approaches to lay participation through the Tablet Synod Watch.

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