Musings on our synod process and outcomes

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference’s national synthesis that was sent to Rome on August 16 completes New Zealand’s stage in the synodal process. Responses from each diocese were categorised under

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)

six themes: Inclusion, Gathering, Leadership, Education and Formation, Mission, and Synodality and Change.  This will combine with other syntheses from all other countries to form the basis of the working document expected to be released next year.  

While this goes offshore, it does not give the option for our bishops, or any of us actually, to wait until the working document is released, to act. Each diocese’s synthesis exposes the thinking of its parishioners in the raw.  

Deep genuine listening requires that the narrative be heard and responded to.    

Bishops – as chief missionary disciples, you must lead us into the new evangelical maturity we ache for in our faith communities.   

Unafraid, you must engage with your priests and leadership teams for all to grow and go forward.  

Issues only go away when they are dealt with. 

The synod cannot turn to custard.  

Matters relating to dogma and language need to be directed to various Vatican departments. Working towards co-responsible leadership will require a spirit of mutual respect. Formation for those engaged in ministries associated with Eucharist is a calling to use one’s spiritual gifts, and not just a matter of getting whoever one can. Everyone is responsible for the spiritual well-being of their parishes and katorika marae.  

But those who have ostracised themselves, or been ostracised from worship for whatever reason, are too great in number to ignore. This must surely be a priority.  

To those who feel far from God and the Church, to all those who are fearful or indifferent, I would like to say this: the Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people. Says Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium – the Joy of the Gospel (113), the mighty blessing of Eucharist celebrated Sunday after Sunday is a reconciliatory celebration for some, but not for everyone.  

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis suggests the value of offering accompaniment without a time-frame or instant results, but always with the hoped outcome to finding friendship in Eucharist.  Perhaps each parish could put in place a pathway offering respectful listening with this hope in mind.  Surely such an initiative doesn’t require papal approval!  What is does require is that we notice who is missing, and go out to them instead of expecting them to come to us.  

“He or she invites others to let themselves be healed, to take up their mat, embrace the cross, leave all behind, and go forth to proclaim the Gospel.” (EG 172). 

Jesus puts this experience simply and beautifully in the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). She hunted high and low. Not satisfied that she had nine already, she searched along the top kitchen cupboards, felt in behind the couch squabs, and even went through the rubbish tins as well as retracing her footsteps. Bingo! So relieved to find it, she wanted everyone to be happy with her.    


We’ve not been left home alone. Jesus reminds us that his presence wasn’t going to wrap up at the Cross. The last sentence in St Matthew’s Gospel reads like this: “And know that I am with you always: yes, to the end of time (Matthew 28:20).”  

The synod preparatory document states: “The purpose of this synod is not to produce more documents.  Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”  

I’m no cheesemaker or winemaker, and this has its difficulties when the Church moves at snail pace. But at the end of the day, we’re dealing with people lives and not just themes.   

Heavens, synod participants knew we weren’t filling out a random consumer questioner about the best outdoor deck cleaner, or most effective toothpaste!

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




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