Regular communication is central to trust-building for the synodal process, the chair of the steering committee for Ireland’s National Synodal Assembly, Dr Nicola Brady has said.
Addressing members of the Association of Catholics in Ireland, she said an ongoing “priority” is communication because that is what they are hearing “very clearly” from people.
Asked about those who feel that nothing is happening in their parish on the synod, Dr Brady encouraged them to inform themselves independently and try and encourage other people in their parish to get involved in the consultation.
She also appealed for “compassionate, supportive engagement with those people who are in leadership roles, whether it is priests or parish pastoral councils”.
She said: “We need to be very mindful that people have been through an incredibly difficult time with Covid and to try and be positive in sharing what is happening in other areas and the kind of things that could be done.”
According to Brady, the training people will undergo to take part in the synodal process will serve them in lots of ways in wider society.
“We are trying to encourage people to engage in discernment, and as part of that, to disagree well and stay in relationship with each other, even when they have different views. That is something wider society is struggling with.
“If we look at political debates and social media, we see increasing concerns around polarisation, labelling people, and attempts to silence people. If we in the Church can be seen to be learning and practising these skills, then the synodal process can be seen as having something to offer wider society as well.”
She urged people to convey to others the openness of the process, and stressed that synodality should be seen as a way of relating to one another from now on, rather than a time specific effort directed only towards the 2023 synodal assembly of bishops in Rome.
Elsewhere, in Westminster, findings from the first phase of the synodal process reveal an “immense gratitude” from people that they are being listened to, but also “sadness and disappointment” that more people did not engage.
However, the findings report also notes there are many thousands of adults and young people in parishes, communities and schools who did engage.
The report reveals the impact of the pandemic: “Some people have not returned. And there is a deep desire from others to see them come back. Some people, even, blaming themselves.” There is a “deep longing for social activities in the parish to resume and for opportunities to pray and to do good together”, the online report says.
Speaking at a synodal gathering in Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “A pathway is being marked out and we must be ready to follow it, both at the level of the universal church and here, at home, in our own particular church, the diocese.”
Commenting on the findings, he said: “There is a sadness in our hearts at the absence of those who are missing. There is a sadness at our failures during the pandemic. There is a sadness that people feel left out. That sadness is the fruit of love.”
Meanwhile, ACTA, Root and Branch and the National Justice and Peace Network are supporting an upcoming event, listening to the voice of young people at St David’s College, Cardiff on 16 March from 7pm. Email: [email protected] for details.