Listen: It’s Jesus speaking!

This is the cover for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference synthesis of responses gathered in the diocesan 
listening phase of the 2023 Synod of Bishops on synodality. 
(CNS/New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference)

The jury is out.   

The collated data from the participants in the synod from the country’s dioceses has been published for all to read.   

At the time of writing, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference was preparing a national synthesis. All will be posted to Rome. 

The can of worms has been opened.  The reading is too serious to ignore.  

In amongst the projections, conditions, expectations and sweeping generalisations, there wasn’t much expression of joy or excitement.   

There are many Catholics who have estranged themselves from worship because they have been hurt by the Church or the Church has failed to be a place of inclusivity and equality, the synod revealed. Yet these groups and people have no idea of the depth of pining felt by those who go to Sunday Eucharist for them to gather around the Altar.  

Eucharist takes us into paradox: that through the liberation of the Cross, creation replaced destruction and goodness triumphed over evil.  

Entering into the redemptive mystery of Jesus’s life, death and Resurrection offers over and over again the hands of friendship to us. Too overwhelmingly marvellous to be true? – but it is true! 

It’s in the eating and drinking together that life’s messes and tragedies are made whole again. Grapes picked and crushed to become wine to become Blood, wheat thrashed to separate grains, ground to become bread to become Body is the exact place healing is offered.  

The heartbreak is this: The very reconciliatory encounter offered in Eucharist is the very experience those who carry open wounds, distance themselves from. In the worst of the pain, there is hope for wholeness because life only rises from death. This is the “stuff” of Eucharist.  

Jesus puts it this way. “Unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you.” 1 Peter 5:7 

Way down here on the ground of parish life, if we are to respond to the synod findings, it would start with halting the blame game. It’s time for personal ownership. 

The Dalai Lama says this: ”When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot.  When you realise that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” 

To blame is to remain held down by injury. It chews and churns away inside us, keeping us a victim. What’s happened or failed to happen, can’t be deleted, nor can we “put it behind us” or “get over it” or “get off the grass” or “you’re still going on about it”  in the form of one-liners.  No, it’s about confronting to integrate the incident to regain our power to be.  

The synod gave reason for any local parish faith community to ask of itself, what is my parish really like? Do we sincerely welcome someone new? Are the liturgies life giving, community vibrant and charisms galore identified and called from parishioners? Would I invite another to experience this body? 

Everyone wants the other to change, but fewer want to change themselves.  

Growth and maturity are in our hands. All of our hands.  

Leadership models are critical to create vitalising environments. Clericalism was cited throughout the synod.  Ordained ministry continuing down through the ages from Jesus, was never meant to be referred to, or become a structure, or hierarchy, or self-governance, but service. Ministry – both ordained and lay  – is only about service.  

St Peter had it figured out 2000 years ago surprisingly. “Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow.” 1 Peter 5:3-4.  

Once the Catholic Church was likened to a well-oiled mighty piece of machinery.  Everyone knew their place to keep the machine ticking over. She had become so efficient she lost the point of being in the business of Jesus.  Vatican II reclaimed this basic fact that Jesus is Lord, to quote biblical Lydia after she had listened to St Paul preach in her hometown.  (Acts 16:14).  

“Keep us from becoming a ‘museum church’, beautiful but mute, with much past and little future”, said Pope Francis in his homily on October 10, 2021, in Rome at the opening of the synod.  

  • Sue Seconi is a parishioner at The Catholic Parish of Whanganui – Te Parihi Katorika Ki Whanganui 













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Sue Seconi

Reader Interactions


  1. Kathryn Trask says

    Pope Francis asked the people to speak and the New Zealand people have spoken. I myself did not contribute anything, however I stand in awe at the gift presented to us in this document. Firstly from all those people who offered their reflections and thoughts and secondly to those who collated the document ready to be presented to us and to Rome.

    I experience it as a very sincere and prayer filled response. A very genuine reflection on where we stand now as a community in New Zealand. I have found it makes excellent reflective reading, stopping at the parts that really resonate with me. Parts I can say a big YES to, and parts I know would challenge me, places I know we need to go but I may feel uncomfortable about.

    Clericalism is mentioned, and I suspect that lines up on a continuum, from appalling to life giving. So what is clericalism, what do we not want to see perpetuated as lay people take up more responsibility in the Church?

    This document is only the start, I see nothing negative in it, but a call to us to go forward as a people. And if there is negative in it – is that bad? Do we have to wait for Rome to give their response? I don’t think so – in the meantime there is so much that we can explore as communities in our parishes, dioceses and country.

    This document gives me hope for the future. I totally agree with Sue, we need to drop the blame, that gets us nowhere. But we can start with ourselves and our parishes. Sue speaks beautifully of the Eucharist, but if those who have been hurt by the church community are to experience it at the depth she names, I personally think there may be steps that need to happen before they are ready to know that. I don’t know the answer but maybe together we could do something.

    I think it will take a lot of time, but I am wondering at the seeming hiatus. the document has been shared. What is happening now?

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