St. Mary’s Blackheath October 2021.
The Synod in Rome 2023.
The Holy Father has set in motion a process of worldwide Consultation leading to the Synod of Bishops that will take place in Rome in 2023.
He has invited everybody to take part in the process of preparation by sharing their thoughts and ideas. The preparation will take place in our own parish, at Diocesan level, at national level and the results will be sent to Rome.
Time is short and the consultation at parish level must be completed by 18th November.
I have asked two members of the parish to help with this task, Colm Lanigan and Una Palmer.
I suggest that there will be four ways in which you can share your thoughts:
- There will be a parish meeting to be held in the Big Hall on evening of Thursday 4th November at 7.30pm.
- You may wish to submit your thoughts online and these can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Alternatively, you may wish to submit your thoughts online direct to the Diocesan office at email@example.com
- You may prefer to send a written response to the Diocesan office and the address is Synod Submissions, c/o Archbishop’s House, 150, St. George’s Road SE1 6HX.
To help you there is a Diocesan website: www.rcaos.org.uk/synod
For the Bishops Conference in England and Wales www.cbcew.org.uk/synodal-church/
From the Synod office in Rome in different languages www.synod.va/en.html
To help with our discussion, three main themes have been suggested – Communion – Participation – Mission. As an appendix I enclose a series of questions based on these three themes. I realise that these are quite comprehensive and may seem daunting. Indeed, you may not feel that you have an answer to all of the questions.
In turn you may feel that there are important issues which are not included in a specific form in these three papers. Please feel free to submit your own thoughts and ideas on these issues and I assure you that they will be included in the submission from our parish.
I realise that this may seem to be a daunting task requiring a considerable amount of time. However, at the request of the Holy Father and of our Archbishop I put all this to you and as always, would greatly appreciate your thoughts and help.
With kindest wishes, Monsignor Nicholas Rothon
The People of God are on pilgrimage through history towards the heavenly homeland. Each one of the baptised is to be honoured with the same dignity as children of God and appointed to the same mission, the proclamation of the Good News and the building of the Kingdom of God.
1. Given what you see of the Church (words and actions), in the parish and beyond, what would you say is the Church’s mission?
2. How might we ﬁnd a shared understanding of mission in the different parishes and Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese of Southwark?
3. Are we looking in or are we looking out, as a parish community? Can we do both effectively?
4. From a missionary perspective, how would you characterise both the local situation and local needs in your parish and community?
5. How is your parish set up for evangelisation? How does your parish reach out to the broader community with the Good News?
6. Where is the Holy Spirit calling you to mission and service today?
7. In what ways do you already intentionally and actively seek to share the Good News of Jesus Christ?
8. How does the life of the parish, in terms of catechesis, adult formation, liturgy etc. aid in the formation of parishioners as missionary disciples?
9. How can the call to holiness and the call to mission be reﬂected in different aspects of parish life?
The Church is Catholic because she is sent to all, in order to gather the entire human family from every nation and culture, under the Lordship of Christ and in the unity of his Spirit.
1. What are the ways in which your parish most successfully brings people together?
2. In which areas of parish life (liturgical, charitable, social etc.) does your parish feel and act as one?
3. In which areas of parish life (liturgical, charitable, social etc.) are you able to discern
the presence and movement of the Holy Spirit?
4. How is the Holy Eucharist the main focal point for your parish?
5. Is the parish the sole locus for Communion in your area?
6. Christ is present as the head united to his body (Ephesians 1:22-23) in our parishes and communities. How is this reﬂected in your parish/community life? Are there other reasons that you gather together?
7. In what ways can you help to build up communion effectively and authentically in the coming months and years?
8. How do you relate to members of the Church who have drifted away from practice?
9. How does your parish relate to other parishes nearby and the diocese as a whole?
Participation is based on the fact that all the faithful are qualiﬁed and called to serve each other through the gifts they have all received from the Holy Spirit. The authority of pastors is a speciﬁc gift of the Spirit of Christ the Head for the building up of the entire Body.
1. Reﬂecting on 16 months of the pandemic, how has participation in your parish
been affected? Were these issues there before?
2. How can participation be strengthened moving forward into the future?
3. What are the means by which different voices can be heard in your parish (particularly those on the periphery of parish life)?
4. Which groups and individuals are least included in your parish?
5. How can you broaden the way you include people whilst keeping always true to the
Gospel and our core Christian identity?
6. How do you currently participate, personally, in the life of the Church? How much responsibility do you have as an individual?
7. How can we better enable full participation and co-responsibility in the life of the Church at the parish and diocesan levels?
8. How does your parish effectively identify and use the gifts of its people?
9. How do families and young people effectively participate in life of your parish? How do you support them?
This document was widely distributed in the Parish and the consultation took the following forms:
Boards in the Angelus Room so that comments could be added.
A parish meeting
An invitation to submit written or email comments
By 6th November it was estimated that comments had been received from about 70 people.
The comments were written up and displayed in the Angelus Room.
The original directions asked that the Parish submissions should be sent to the Diocesan Office by mid-November and we kept to this deadline. However very recently the consultation period has been extended to mid- January.
This post includes the comments that have been received to date and serve as a draft of the submission from this parish.
Please send any comments by 18th November. Ideally they should be sent to Monsignor Rothon by email at firstname.lastname@example.org,uk.
After this deadline, it will still be possible to submit comments direct to the Diocesan Office at the address given above. The final date for such comments is 10th January.
Here then are the comments that we have received to date.
1:1 Parish life
The parish is fortunate to have some excellent facilities including a large garden which are available to the members of the parish and are much appreciated.
There is a mediation group – suspended for the time being due to Covid – but there is a request that this should start again and possibly a Prayer group could be added.
A Bible reading group was suggested.
Sales of small items would be welcomed.
Various social events were suggested, including a summer fete and possibly events in the hall during the winter.
There is a need for a Catechetics group for young people post- Confirmation and also for the age group between First Communion and Confirmation.
The parish did not arrange an on-line Mass during the lock down as there is no wi-fi in the Church and the equipment would be expensive. There is a suggestion that this should be reconsidered.
There is a need for a street sign giving directions to the Church.
The times of Sunday and weekday Masses do not suit everybody but generally the present pattern meets the needs of many people.
1:2 The local area.
South London is unusual with several Parishes in close proximity. For a variety of reasons, London seems to operate as a number of villages. It was suggested that many people no longer look for the Church in geographical parochial area in which they live but for a Church which suites their own personal wishes and style of worship. As a consequence inter-parish partnership is not always easy.
Our charitable work up to the present has been wide reaching but it was suggested that this might be more focussed on the local area. (In fact the Justice and Peace Group is already reviewing this.)
Other suggested activities, such as prison visiting are already undertaken by individuals.
1:3 The universal Church
There was a strong representation of the need to review the position of women in the Church. It is recognised that in many ways women already play a leading role in the life of the Church – in many local parishes, in education and as leaders of Church organisations such as Cafod and Christian Aid. But there is a concern that the ultimate decisions are always male led – in some cases the life of a parish is open with a sharing of responsibility but in others, the role of the male priest is dominant. The governance of a Diocese is led by a male Bishop leading to even thoughts of the Papacy.
It was therefore proposed that the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood should be re-examined as a theological issue with the help of the Scriptures and the traditions of the Church.
It was recognised that a change would affect not only modern Western Europe but would have implications throughout the world, including areas where at present the male-female roles are different.. However we live in a rapidly changing world and it is probable that these barriers will be dismantled in the years to come. The Church could help to lead the way in making this possible.
There was a suggestion that the whole question of leadership needs to be reconsidered. At present much of the organisation is based on an hierarchical – pyramid structure with decisions made by the Bishop. There is space for many of these decisions to be made after consultation and based on a partnership. For example this would be helpful when a new Parish Priest is to be appointed. Also, a new Priest, coming to a Parish, should not have the freedom to simply impose his own ideas but must act in partnership and consultation with the people of the parish, taking into account what has gone before.
The needs of LGBTQ+ were considered. It is important that they should receive pastoral support and there should be no form of discrimination. The possibility of arranging a formal blessing for a same gender partnership was recommended. It was noted that the question of describing this as a marriage was more difficult as this led to the question of deciding the exact meaning of marriage.
There is a need to reconsider the needs of those who have entered into a second marriage. Many have been unable to obtain an annulment for an earlier first marriage but for many years have lived faithfully in a second marriage and cared for a family. It was hoped that a way might be found to enable them to receive Holy Communion.
2:1 Local parish
There is a need to improve catechesis for adults as well as a need for adult formation.
There is a proposal to form a Catholic Men’s Group to encourage formation and a deeper understanding of Catholic male roles and duties. Catechesis if the basis for missionary work. We need to include adolescents and adults in an improved catechesis – they need further religious instruction and knowledge of the bible.
There is a need to welcome and encourage newcomers to the Parish as well as getting to know other parishioners and offering help and support when needed
Greater knowledge of the Bible is important for all age groups.
It was recognised that members of the parish have many talents and these might be used in the mission of the Church. Also it was noted that many are very busy professional people with families and they have little spare time available to give to the service of the Church.
The possibility of a census -possibly on line – was suggested to determine what might be possible.
On line communication has become important and more general, particularly as a result of Covid. The parish has a web site and the newsletter is published on line each week but it was suggested that this should be extended to include the monthly parish magazine.
The possible of general email communications with all members of the parish was considered but it was thought that this would not be appropriate – rather emails are used for specific purposes such as rotas and arrangements for classes.
On line communication through apps requires some professional guidance and support. This requires a detailed investigation.
2:2 The local area
Co-operation with other local Church on practical social action such as food banks. (as noted under the Mission Section, this is already in hand).
Pilgrimages and retreats. It was noted that in recent years over 100 members of the parish have been able to visit the English Seminary at Valladolid in Spain.
2:3 The universal Church
To many leadership at the Vatican seems remote and detached and better communication on a broader Catholic level would be welcome.
The role of women both in leadership and in the hierarchy of the Church must be given full consideration.
As regards outward mission it was suggested that personal witness is more effective than a confrontational approach in recruiting new converts.
It is perceived that the Church has been judgemental and this has not been helpful during a crisis, such as a divorce or coming out as gay This has been a barrier especially when there is a need for a rediscovery of faith.
There is a great hunger and thirst for spirituality but the Church has not been seen to be reaching out adequately to people. The Church needs to reform and to be more approachable and compassionate.
3:1: Local parish
A proposal to re-introduce a summer fete.
Regular social events – possibly quarterly using the hall in the winter.
There is a parish website – but it seems that not everybody is aware of this.
Publication of minutes of Parish Council meetings.
Information about Diocesan events.
Sharing in Catholic formation meetings
Re-starting the meditation group.
As far as possible the parish tries to be inclusive: facilities for the disabled, facilities for children and multi-racial approach to Sacraments.
Suggestions for the future: a book group, architectural sketching, a garden group and continuation of coffee mornings.
The need for adult formation in the Catholic faith.
3:2 Local area
Arrange visits of individual parishes to the Cathedral to share in a Mass once a year.
3:3 The universal Church
A spirit of welcome by priests in all parishes – making sure that there is not a rigid application of rules and that all groups are made welcome – that none are marginalised. This would include, for example, those in second marriages and homosexuals.
The role of women in the Church is most important and the ordination of women should be considered.