For A Synodal Church

Communion, Participation and Mission
National Synod ReportDiocesan Synod Report

Parish Resources

Diocesan Assembly

What is the Synod?

‘Synod’ is an ancient word, meaning to ‘walk together’.  From the very beginnings of the Church (Acts 15), it has been a way of reflecting together, listening and speaking graciously and discerning the Holy Spirit. The Second Vatican Council saw a re-discovery of this style of being Church and Pope Francis has said  

“Synodality is the path God expects from the Church in the third millennium”.

In October 2021 Pope Francis launched a three year process of engaging everyone to discern our mission for a changing world.  Our challenge is to become a more listening Church that journeys with all including with those on the peripheries.

The Synod in Northampton Diocese

Bishop David has challenged us to take Pope Francis seriously, writing in our diocesan Synod report: 

“We are not called to be navel-gazers, but a communion of communities that looks beyond themselves… And so it is imperative that we become a synodal diocese, building upon the conversations we have held over the past few months.”

Our Synod journey has had several phases and is ongoing as we work to become a synodal diocese.   

Oct 2021April 2022 Synod Listening, Diocesan Phase  

Taking part in the diocesan phase of the Global Synod was a huge but rewarding taskOur Synod listening process trained over 100 listeners, had listening events in nearly all our parishes, and produced 400 pages of responses, which were summarised inour 10 page report. At the end of the report, certain commitments were made, including the creation of 5 working parties to continue the listening and make recommendations in specific areas, and a diocesan Assembly. 

May 2022 – June 2023 Preparation for the Assembly

Working Parties

Some of the themes in the listening were already being addressed by diocesan initiatives, includingmissionandyouth. Other topics had arisen but it was not clear what the next step should be, or where more voices needed to be heard.  Five working parties were created to take these further including 

  • Engaging lay people in decision making
  • Diocesan finances and resources for mission
  • Women’s ministry
  • The life of the priest
  • Reaching the marginalised

 

You can find out more about these topics, including reports from the working parties, watching webinars we’ve held, and responding through our portal here.

Preparation of Delegates

Around 350 people were invited to be delegates from a range of ages, ministries and ethnicitiesFrom April onwards, preparation sessions were held across the diocese, introducing delegates to Conversation in the Spirit, and enabling people to meet in their pastoral areas before attending the main event. 

15th July 2023, Diocesan Assembly

Our Diocesan Assembly was held on 15th July at Thornton College.  In addition to hearing about the work of the working parties, the main part of the day was spent in listening conversations across twelve topicsThese included prayer, mission, communication, family life, women’s ministry, the life of our priests, lay engagement in decision-making, the purpose of the parish, and moreWe were electrified by the presentation of the youth stream present for the day.   Find out much more about the Assembly here, including the recording of the livestream. 

Sep 2023 – June 2024 Vicariate for Pastoral Development 

As part of his commitment to synodality in our diocese, Bishop David created a new Vicariate for Pastoral Development to take on the initiatives of the Assembly.  This work includes: 

To develop synodal structures of listening and discerning across the diocese, particularly through pastoral councils at diocesan, pastoral area and parish level . Through formation, to develop skills of listening and leadership together with opportunities for spiritual encounter, promoting the vocation of all the baptised. 

  • To support parishes to be welcoming communities that are confident to reach beyond their walls. 
  • To assist the diocese in the creation of a strategic plan, responding both to financial and demographic realities, but also to think creatively about the shape of mission in our rapidly changing world

Find out more about the Vicariate here: https://northamptondiocese.org/office-for-pastoral-development/  

Jan – Oct 2024 Aylesbury Pastoral Area listening process

 We are developing many of these ideas through a substantial listening process that has been taking place in Aylesbury Pastoral Area over the past few monthsWe are now at the stage of developing concrete plans for the future. We are looking to roll this process out across the DioceseYou can find out more here: https://northamptondiocese.org/pd-aylesbury/ 

July 2024 Bishop David’s commitments to the diocese

We are learning that becoming a synodal diocese is a patient work of conversation as it requires transforming our relationships and building a culture of trust, transparency and openness.  In order to keep us on this path, Bishop David is making the following commitments:  

  1. There will be a gathering to begin work towards a new Diocesan Pastoral Council on 14th July to ensure a lay voice in diocesan decision making.
  2. Every parish should have a functioning Pastoral Council. We recognise that these are not always easy groups to form, so an accompaniment programme will be offered. This will begin in the autumn. There are details about this below.   
  3. Following the finance working party, both the Diocese and each parish are asked to make a presentation of their finances at least once each year. Appropriate figures and suggestions of ways to do this will be made available.   
  4. Recognising the necessity of pastoral reorganisation, if churches have to be closed or amalgamated, there will be a transparent listening process, and future investment in the local pastoral area.  
  5. With the support of the Women in Ministry Group, to establish a programme of formation for the institution of the lay ministries of Reader and Acolyte for lay women and men. 
  6. To make available professional pastoral accompaniment for all clergy. A Diocesan Coordinator will work with the John Paul II Network to establish a local directory of counsellors and support structures.  We are also investing in a programme of works to improve our most dated presbyteries.

Every community can ponder the Assembly listening with the help of our Reflection resource which brings together the feedback from the twelve workshops with some questions for conversation.

 Autumn 2024 onwards 

From September 2024 we will be: 

  • Piloting a programme to support new and existing https://northamptondiocese.org/Pastoral-Councils-Accompaniment-Programme
  • Offering practical training to bring listening conversations into parish life 
  • Completing the Aylesbury Pastoral Area listening process and moving to a next PA with a view to working round the diocese 
  • Developing listening processes to respond to emergency/individual parish closures or amalgamations 
  • Holding a webinar with Dr Liam Hayes to reflect on “Believing not belonging” research for Brentwood Diocese exploring the experiences of Catholics who have stopped attending Mass.  
  • Offering a new resource to help parishes reflect on radical hospitality.