Small parish community embodies synodal journey

The recent parish feast day celebration at the Church of Our Lady of Good Health in Parit Buntar, Perak was a time of festivity, prayer, and thanksgiving for the parishioners.

Sep 22, 2023

By Fr Martin Arlando

The recent parish feast day celebration at the Church of Our Lady of Good Health in Parit Buntar, Perak was a time of festivity, prayer, and thanksgiving for the parishioners. Community participation was at the fore as the event brought together people of all ages and backgrounds, providing an opportunity to strengthen bonds and celebrate in unity.

The feast day organising committee focused on the synodal journey and chose the theme, Mary calls families to be salt of the earth and light of the world in the Church. This theme was apt as the parish is currently in the transition period of moving from the focus on ‘families’ to ‘Church’.

After being in this parish for about six months now, I have learnt a lot — from the kids to the senior citizens. I am more immersed in the Indian culture and tradition, the Synodal Church and the New Way of Being Church.

As soon as I arrived in this parish on March 1, 2023, I began visiting the BECs with the hardworking Parish Animating Team. The purpose was to simply reflect with them and listen from the BEC members on their understanding of Church and participation. The questionnaires were completed earlier, but I felt their expression in person was very valuable and contributed greatly to the organising of the parish feast day celebrations.

We also met the various key ministries and went through the same process with the catechism children, youth and single adults.

During all the meetings I could sense their enthusiasm in wanting to grow as a family in the parish and the Church as a whole. To some groups I gave challenges for them to move forward in spirituality, participation and deeper understanding. By the end of the visits, the people’s eyes were opened to the current needs and to come together as one community.

These efforts bore fruit during the preparation and the celebrations itself. The event brought people together, fostered a sense of belonging, and reinforced the bonds of friendship and fellowship. Parishioners volunteered their time and effort to prepare for the celebration two months in advance. The celebration provided an opportunity for the young people to showcase their talents and learn about their heritage, while the elders were invited to share what the parish celebration was like in the olden days and how to grow from here. A video was prepared to capture and preserve all these precious moments and has safely been archived for future generations.

The planning and coordination involved the priest, pastoral council, and leaders who met to discuss the event’s structure, activities, and decisions related to liturgy and feast preparation. This planning process was guided by the principles of the synodal journey, where all members are encouraged to participate actively, whether little children, youth or the most senior person in the parish.

Active participation
The synodal journey underlines the importance of active participation by all members of the parish community. The participation of parishioners was welcomed in all aspects of the feast day preparations including decoration, cooking, and preparation of the Liturgy. This active involvement fostered a sense of togetherness and belonging within the community. This is where I witnessed the spirit of gotongroyong, especially during the preparation of meals, where all came together to cook, chat and help one another. Even though some were tired after the long day of preparation and procession, they went back home to immediately change and come back with their utensils to prepare the food for the chef to cook. It was such a joy to see them preparing the meal with LOVE. One special thing I witnessed was the generosity of the parishioners in donating some of the things needed to be used for cooking whereas the kindergarten and primary school kids also contributed by giving the savings from their daily school pocket money. No one was left out.

Listening to the voices of the people
The synodal journey encourages Church leaders to listen to the voices of the people, especially those who are marginalised or vulnerable. This is where the various BECs contributed to the poor ? Christians and non-Christians alike. We also listened to their feedback on how to make this parish and us, a Jesus for all. Their voices were precious and taken into account, ensuring that everyone feels valued and heard.

Encouraging dialogue and collaborative decision-making
The synodal journey emphasises the spirit of collaboration, dialogue, and consensusbuilding. This was done within the various parish groups. One of it was the selection of the theme for the parish feast day, where all the BEC liturgical representatives were asked to propose the daily themes for the Masses they were animating and also the main theme. All of us brainstormed to make the theme OUR theme and not just to showcase it. At the end all were in agreement as the theme reflected what we are going through and living, and the sub themes helped us to enhance our spiritual growth. The members shared their ideas, listened to others, and worked together to create a vibrant celebration.

Peace, joy and gratitude
Our parish feast day celebration included entertainment such as cultural performances, live music, and children’s games. These events had a unifying theme promoting peace, joy, and gratitude. There was a booth about Mother Mary where everyone had a chance to learn about the various apparitions of Our Lady that took place around the world. There were activities for the children. The youth and single adults organised a praise and worship session and also did a flash mob which I promised to join, and I did.

Our celebration this year provided the members with an opportunity to come together in prayer, reflecting on their faith and devotion to Our Lady of Good Health. The preparation and celebration itself exemplified the Synodal journey’s principles, emphasising a shared sense of collaboration, togetherness and active participation. The celebration represented the spirit of the Church as a community, reflecting the values of listening, dialogue, and reflection. Volunteers, cultural performers, feast preparers, procession leaders, and Mass attendees all played an essential role in making the celebration a joyous and memorable one.

All in all, our parish feast day embodied the spirit of community, participation, togetherness, enhanced team spirit, and fostered goodwill. These aspects of the synodal journey were evident throughout our preparations where the values of prayer, active participation, listening to the voice of the people, dialogue, and decision-making were all emphasised. All of these reinforced the sense of community and belonging that is at the heart of the synodal journey.

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