Journeying together to live out the synodal process

Pre-synodal celebrations at deanery level were held to celebrate the completion of the synodal process that took place in every parish, including College General.

May 20, 2022

Pre-synodal celebrations at deanery level were held to celebrate the completion of the synodal process that took place in every parish, including College General. The aim was not to provide a temporary or one-time experience of synodality but, rather, to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward on the path towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.

Braving the challenges of movement control and face-to-face communication, the deanery level pre-synodal teams responded with eagerness to plan and execute the process of reaching out to Catholics, and even non-Catholics, with a set of questions as a tool to dialogue with.

Using online question forms, chatbot, online meetings, telephone interviews and limited face-to-face interaction, responses were obtained and later synthesised into the Deanery Reports.

Not every Catholic responded to the questions, but this was a big step forward. This effort is only a seed that will grow in the future, as Bishop Sebastian Francis pointed out: this synodal process is from God and it is here to stay.

                                                            Perak Deanery

TAIPING: On April 30, representatives from nine parishes of the Perak Deanery gathered at Taiping Catholic Church to celebrate the Perak Deanery synodal process reporting. Bishop Sebastian Francis was present to grace the occasion, accept the report and celebrate the Eucharist.

This gathering was important and historical as some commented that this is the first time in the history of the Church that the Pope has reached out to us to speak from our hearts and walk with him in this synodal journey. What used to be events only for bishops who gather at the Vatican occasionally, has now turned out to be an opportunity for all Catholics to join in.

The celebration began at 10.00am with Praise and Worship led by Alvinus and his companions. Then Fr Simon Anand, who led the presynodal team in Perak, shared the report. From the responses, 17 areas of concern emerged. The top three in this list are:

-- Sense of Belonging

--  Formation Catechesis

-- Evangelisation and Re-evangelisation Key points from the report include:

-- The people had expressed that consultation has already been part of our Church and now it is very encouraging to see that there is a call to involve people at all levels. It was pointed out that this synodal process is a good way of voicing out their concerns and a platform to raise issues, they believe, are important for the Church hierarchy to know. They also pointed out that there is a need to move from a clergy centric community to a more laity centred church (People of God).

-- There seemed to be a general cry for more and deeper formation and catechesis in the faith, the Word of God and to grow deeper in the knowledge of the Lord. Two critical points which came out on formation was the need to educate youth if faith is to be taken as a priority and to equip ourselves with knowledge of current issues. More teaching and training are requested on social and political responsibilities.

-- An interesting point which came out was that our formation to the young seems to be too serious and boring. A challenge was put out to get the attention of “tik-tok minded teenagers”.

-- Within and outside the Church, vital actions are needed to live out our call more faithfully to be missionary Disciples of Christ. There was also a statement pointing out that the local Church is not so inclusive, especially to family members who are not Catholics.

Individual parishes also submitted their parish level reports. Fr Jude Miranda, who is chairman of the Diocesan Synodal Team, facilitated a brief session of acceptance and ownership of this report, stating that this is our response to the Pope’s call and we own it.

Fr Simon Labrooy gave a presentation on what lies ahead of us as a Church. He brought out reflective points to think about. One such point showed that we usually think that the Church is on a Mission, and we are part of it. But it is time to think that WE are on mission and the Church is part of it.

The programme ended with the celebration of the Eucharist, followed by fellowship meal at the parish hall. -- By Ramesh Victor

                                                     Northern Deanery

BUKIT MERTAJAM: The Synodal Celebration of the Northern Deanery was held on May 2 at the Minor Basilica of St Anne.

The Northern Deanery of the diocese consists of parishes from the states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and mainland Penang.

The event began with praise and worship, as well as the opening address by Bishop Sebastian Francis, who shared that though we are walking together with the Pope for this Synod, it is important to listen to the Holy Spirit and to one another.

Fr Jude Miranda shared that the listening and dialogue will be part of the synodal process to affirm the direction of all parish leaders for the future of the Church.

“This journey and process is a blessing as all of us are part of it; the bishops, priests and laity, we are one people journeying towards the Kingdom of God,” he said.

The respective parishes then presented their reports to Bishop Sebastian.

Peter Loo presented the synodal findings of the Northern Deanery parishes in which close to 39 per cent of the13,670 parishioners participated in the process.

Ramesh Victor provided the keypoints of the synodal report. He analysed that the people are urged to carry out the missionary work with bravery, be an inclusive community and be creative in evangelisation.

Parish leaders were then given the opportunity to dialogue and put forth their concerns regarding the report through a short, moderated session.

Where do we go from here? This was answered by Fr Simon Labrooy, where he shared two key areas: action — which signifies the process going from the parish level all the way to Vatican, and attitude — which prompts us to continue living the synodal journey.

He also touched on the importance of continuing the process of dialogue in the various communities, as it allows for an acceptance of differences.

The faithful, together with the clergy, then came together to celebrate the concluding Mass which was presided over by Bishop Sebastian.

The prelate then shared that the Holy Spirit has constantly moved within the Diocese as evident in the Penang Diocesan Synod which was held at the same venue in May 2016.

The bishop said that he will be consecrating the Diocesan Synodal Celebration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“This journey which we take together will deepen our communion in the Trinitarian God and those around, and the communion gives us the energy of the Holy Spirit to be on mission.” Bishop Sebastian said. — By Aaron Lim

                                           Penang Deanery

PENANG: “Vade mecum! Come walk with me.” These were the words spoken by Bishop Sebastian Francis in his opening address at the Penang Deanery Pre-Synodal Celebration held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on May 8. Bishop Sebastian added that, as we partake in this synodal process, we should listen to one another, to God’s word, to the Holy Spirit, and to each other’s hopes and aspirations.

Fr Jude Miranda, in his opening remarks, mentioned that the Synodal Process was a time of dialogue and listening at the local level. Each parish then presented their synthesis to Bishop Sebastian. They represent dreams, hopes, vision, and prophesies towards a more synodal Church.

Msgr Aloysius Tan presented the synthesis of the responses of the Penang Island Deanery. He shared on the three major themes — Communion, Participation, and Mission, and he highlighted the challenges of obtaining and gathering the responses and the uniqueness of it.

The suggestions and aspirations gathered from the responses on Communion were, to have a closer communion with God and others, and also to have greater mutual respect and a sense of empathy with each other. For Participation, most mentioned that there has to be a greater participation and involvement in decision making in the life of the parish. For Mission, there is a need to respond to the signs of the times within and beyond the parish.

Seminarian Matthew Lo from College General presented the responses from the seminarians. He mentioned that there is a need to acknowledge our wounds and weaknesses, and that we are in need of healing too. As such, we can be a Church of wounded healers. He further added that there has to be a greater need to be a more listening and discerning Church.

During the open floor session, Bishop Emeritus Anthony Selvanayagam commented that there has to be content and structure in this Synodal Process and not let it be just another event.

One person shared concerns about the people considered to be on the peripheries – whether their voices will be heard and how we are able to reach out to them.

Another shared that if the responses were further consolidated, would the final report actually represent the concerns and the actual voices of the people.

Finally, a third concern was on how all of the findings affect the parish life and the life of the Church.

Fr Jude clarified that the synthesised reports would eventually be brought forward to the Holy Father, and the responses that were received at the parish level were to be discussed and carried out by the parish.

Ramesh Victor then guided the assembly present in a process of ownership. He began by noting three major cries of the people that came across in all the reports gathered. A cry to be listened to, a cry to be a more inclusive Church, especially towards the elderly and the youth, and a cry for a deeper relationship with each other, with ministries in the parish, and with the Eucharist.

It was suggested by the people that we speak with greater courage and freedom, be more empathetic, and to see mission as a way of life. He reminded the assembly that this process of dialogue and listening is on-going. Quoting Gaudium et Spes, he said that this synodal process comes to fulfilment when the joys and anguish of the people of God, especially the poor, becomes ours, too.

Finally, Fr Simon Labrooy shared on what happens after this. He put it beautifully, at the end of his presentation, that what was needed was the attitude of a seeker. An attitude of credibility, of dialoguing, an attitude of a servant and not of a tyrant. He exhorted that we need to be a people of dialogue, and one who is open to healing and forgiving. One who is courageous to LISTEN. — By Ashvin Xavier and Leon Gautier

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