National gathering planned in synod process

A national gathering is being planned for next year at the conclusion of the diocesan discussion and reflection stages of the Synod of Bishops 2021-23 process, said Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe. 

The synod theme is: “For a synodal church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” 

            Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe

During a homily at a Mass celebrated at his chapel because of Covid-19 restrictions, and live-streamed, Bishop Lowe said that discussion groups in parishes and elsewhere in Hamilton diocese will be able to submit their reflections to the diocesan office, from which a diocesan reflection on the questions in the synod preparatory document will be prepared. 

“Next year, around Easter, there will be a national gathering when we will reflect together as the Church in New Zealand, and this will all be fed into the process in Rome, where bishops and lay people from around the world will gather with Pope Francis,” Bishop Lowe said. 

He started his homily by recounting how a group of 40 people gathered in Hamilton diocese last year to discern together a strategic plan for the diocese for the next five years. 

“Out of that came our strategic plan. The three headings we had were together, on the journey, living no longer for ourselves but for Christ.” 

Now Pope Francis, in starting the synodal process which will culminate in the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023, “is asking for a Church that journeys together”. 

“It is always good when the Pope agrees with the Diocese of Hamilton!” Bishop Lowe joked. 

What Pope Francis is asking of the whole Church is that “we live in communion with each other, that we achieve a greater level of participation, where everybody has a part to play, and then together we open ourselves, the whole Church, up to mission”. 

“And he says to do this we have to be a Church that always remains open to the surprises that the Spirit will certainly prepare for us along the way.” 

God is always journeying to us and speaking to us, Bishop Lowe said. 

“Not that we are always journeying with him, or listening to him. Maybe it is a bit like the teenager when the parent is calling out to them and the teenager just doesn’t want to hear. Maybe we can be like that in our faith journey.” 

Reflecting on the Gospel of the day, in which Jesus said that those who want to be first must be a slave, Bishop Lowe said that one of the most important things a slave has to do is to listen, in order to find out what they have to do. This requires an attitude of humility, and a development of a discipline of listening to the Lord and being guided by him.  

“Jesus and his Spirit are always wanting to correct the Church, to guide the Church, just as he did for the disciples there, so he wants to do that today. That is what a synodal Church is all about. A synodal Church is one that listens to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We do it in our own personal journey of faith, but we also need to do it together as the whole People of God.” 

Bishop Lowe cited the example of St Oscar Romero, who was transformed by listening to the suffering of his people in El Salvador, and his subsequent actions on their behalf led to his martyrdom. 

“To be a disciple of Christ means that we must be ready to lay down our life,” Bishop Lowe said. 

The bishop said he would be putting out a series of short videos addressing the material that the Church has distributed for the synod. 

“The Spirit calls us to participate,” Bishop Lowe said, “just not to be passively sitting on the pews on Sundays, and then going out to live our life as if nothing had changed. Because we are called to be people of mission.” 


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Michael Otto

Reader Interactions


  1. Nigel Williamson says

    Various synods, plenarys, Vatican I and II
    along with councils all seem to be dominated
    by MEN.
    This is fine while the men live according to
    the poverty of Christ.
    But equally women are people with gift, and
    this means the Holy Spirit in their lives.
    Women also have a voice now in places in
    Rome where they are involved in the whole
    dissemination of faith.
    The sundry scandals all point to a need
    within the community for a poverty to
    be embraced like St Francis, who had many
    followers, and for women to be respected for
    all their giftedness.
    Many have endured the desire to “begin again”
    with those who somehow have forgotten the
    essentials that have produced saints and martyrs
    of the past. As the church moves on it also
    takes on board the notion of “progressives” who
    have much say, and the well to do.
    By reaching down to the most humble is there
    ever a chance to imitate Christ, who came not
    in an expensive modern hospital, but a smelly
    stinky stable.
    By touching those lives which are marginalised
    the community observes the call to fulfill the
    gospel message, each day, each time it encounters
    these. Only then does it become authentic.
    Women play a significant part in the concern
    for the weakest in society. They should be heard
    and never talked down to.

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