Since Archbishop Malcolm McMahon announced plans for a 2020 Diocesan Synod in his pastoral letters in October and December 2017, you may be thinking, 'It's all gone a little bit quiet, what's happening?'
In one sense it has all gone quiet – that is because this first year of preparation, from October 2017 to October 2018, is a designated Year of Prayer. The foundation of our Synod must be prayer and Liverpool is fortunate enough to be hosting the Eucharistic Congress and Pilgrimage in September 2018, and so this first year of prayer fits in perfectly with our preparations for the Congress.
In Advent each parish was invited to pray a specially composed prayer at every Mass. This prayer asked that we open ourselves to the presence of Christ among us and that we be a listening Church. This was our opening action of the Synod – for the whole Diocese to be joined in a prayerful act together. There will be another opportunity to pray for the Eucharistic Congress and the Synod in the nine days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday (the original novena). Every parish will be sent a special prayer, which takes the following form:
'Come Holy Spirit,
fill our hearts with wisdom,
love and courage.
Make us more like Christ
in our words and actions.
'Bless the work of your Church.
Renew us all in the desire
to make Christ
known and loved
in the world today.
'Bless the work of our parish.
Guide all that we do
so that our Church is a place
of mercy and service
for all who are seeking you.
'Deepen our love for the
Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
and guide us in prayer and action
as we journey towards Synod 2020
to become the Church you are calling us to be.
'We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.'
This prayer will be in the form of a bookmark. You may be able to take it and place it in your missal or it can be used in the Mass books at church if you use them. We hope that those who are not able to come to Mass because they are housebound will be able to pray this prayer with us through the good offices of our extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
This is not all. Archbishop Malcolm has been going around the diocese leading Holy Hours in preparation for the Synod. It has been wonderful to see people coming out to join him in prayer. The series of Holy Hours (each starting at 7.30pm) will continue until July and if you could get to any of the following, you would be more than welcome:
• 16 May – St Mary's, Chorley
• 22 May – St Joseph's, Penketh
• 29 May – St Anne's Priory, Ormskirk
• 30 May – St Joseph's, Leigh
• 5 June – St Teresa's, Upholland
• 5 July – St Matthew's, Queens Drive, Liverpool
• 13 July – Saints Peter and Paul, Crosby
As well as these very public actions there has been a lot of work happening behind the scenes. A Synod Working Group has been established at the invitation of Archbishop Malcolm. The purpose of this group is to move forward the Synod process and plan for the event itself.
The working group is made up of eight people, starting with Father Philip Inch and Father Matthew Nunes, who have been appointed as Synod moderators by the Archbishop. Sister Rachel Duffy FCJ will provide insights from the religious, Father Mark Beattie is tasked with overseeing the Liturgy, and Father Stephen Pritchard, chaplain at Liverpool Hope University, will ensure that the ecumenical and theological aspects are not overlooked. In charge of logistics for the Synod, meanwhile, are Mrs Debbie Reynolds, a pastoral worker at SFX in Liverpool, and Mrs Maureen Knight, who brings vast experience from across the diocese. Finally, Father Dominic Curran is responsible for the Synod's IT and communications.
Listening to our priests
In another of the significant early steps taken towards the Synod, the Archbishop invited all of the active priests of the diocese to join him for a day of prayer and reflection in March. The Archbishop was present to introduce each day (one at LACE, the other at St Joseph's, Wrightington) and invited the priests gathered to pray for the Synod and to reflect on the gift of the Eucharist in the life and ministry of a priest. During an hour of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, each priest of the diocese was asked to reflect on how they felt about themselves, how they felt about their ministry and how they felt about the diocese – and had the opportunity to write down what might be done to improve each of these elements.
After lunch together, the comments made were reported back to the assembled priests and to the Archbishop. These two days enabled the Archbishop to listen to his priests as we set out on the path towards Synod 2020. For us all, the need for listening will be at the heart of this journey and it will be a major focus for our work in Year 2 of the Synod process.
Reflecting this idea of a journey, the Synod logo has been slightly adapted to include the words 'Together on the road' above it, and 'Becoming the Church we are called to be' below. 'Together on the road' is the meaning of the word Synod. It also describes the fact that we as a diocese are embarked on the Way – the Way of Jesus himself. 'Becoming the Church we are called to be' is at the heart of what God is inviting us to be and do and it is why we are having a Synod.
In the following months you will see an advert for the post of Synod coordinator – a full-time, three-year post. You will hear about Synod Sunday (21 October 2018 and 13 October 2019), about Synod membership (500 people) and about what is expected of each member. You will hear also about the opening event of the Synod in the Metropolitan Cathedral on the afternoon of Sunday 3 February 2019.
Before any of that, the obvious way to get involved in this first year is through prayer. Please pray for the work of the Synod. It is not just a meeting – it is a process that will open us all up to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so prayer is crucial. In October 2018 there will be two open evenings where people of the diocese are invited to come together to hear about the Synod and have their first opportunity to make comments that will help us preparing the way. These will be held on 16 October at LACE and, before that, on 1 October at St Joseph's Parish Centre in Chorley. These evenings will be from 7.30–9pm. You do not have to book in advance. You are invited to come and see and hear and have your say.