ACI North Wicklow Meeting October 28th 2015
Our October meeting of the ACI North Wicklow Meeting took place as the Synod of Bishops in Rome was drawing to a close. Pope Francis had called on the bishops and on all us to ‘enter into reciprocal listening’ in which everyone has something to say and to learn, be they the Faithful, the college of bishops or himself. He said ‘the energy of a group working together is more powerful than that of individuals’. So our meeting was planned in such a way as to enable the release of this energy in our little group under the guidance and strength of the Spirit.
After singing together one verse of ‘Spirit of the Living God’ we proceeded as follows:
One person read aloud the first of seven short extracts from Pope Francis’s presentations to the Synod. This was followed by a pause for silent reflection, followed by any one person’s sharing with the group, followed by a further silent pause. This process of prayerful reflection on the seven extracts finally merged with spontaneous group sharing.
What emerged from our sharing on the extracts from Synod reporting
There was a feeling of positivity about the Synod outcome. We saw it as a process that will continue. It was felt that there was a perceptible change in the way bishops, in addressing thorny issues were moving from entrenched to more open minded positions. There appeared to be a growing openness to listening. Positions became clearer and were expressed. The big achievement seems to have been the power of the process, the listening, the hope of refreshment and renewal, the efforts to understand and tackle in love and compassion the living realities of family life. It was encouraging to small groups like ACI to think that we all mattered to the Church’s future.
Over the course of his Oct. 17thth address Pope Francis spoke on the nature of “synodality” within the context of the Church’s mission. “In the world in which we live, and in which we are called to love and serve even in its contradictions, the Church requires the strengthening of synergies (energy of a group working together, a merger) in all areas of her mission”.
Certainly the concept of synodality was aired and reinvigorated. The leadership of Francis appeared crucial in all of this. His pre-session remarks put down encouraging and directional markers for dealing frankly with the issues.
“The journey of synodality is the journey which God expects from the Church in the third Millenium.” Pope Francis observed that the concept of lay persons, pastors, and the bishop of Rome journeying together is an “easy concept” to express, but less so to put into practice.
Speaking of the establishment of the two – phase Synod on the Family over the year and whether it is possible to examine this theme without input from families, Pope Francis added, “But, how is it possible to speak on the family without consulting families, listening to their joys and hopes, their sufferings and agonies?”
This Synod is seen as part of a continuum of synodality and encouraging of ongoing dialogue in the Church. His remarks on the absence of families at the synod are indicative of a wish to be more inclusive and more listening.
He went on to speak of the importance of reciprocal listening within a synodal Church. Citing the Vatican II documents, “be they the faithful, the college of bishops, or the bishop of Rome himself, the Synod of Bishops is the point of convergence of this dynamism of listening, conducted at all levels in the life of the Church” .
(One member of our group mentioned at this point that the notice, “The Family Synod-Success or Failure” of our ACI meeting in the local parish newsletter sponsored a sermon on the Synod on the Sunday following).
The phrase “dynamism of listening” struck a strong chord with our meeting. Reference was made to the “listening processes” that were taking place in the Down and Conor diocese, and Kilmore.
Pope Francis elaborated on the pontiff’s place within the Synodal Church. “The Pope is not, by himself, above the Church; but within it as a baptized person among the baptized, and within the Episcopal college as a bishop among bishops, called at the same time to guide the Church of Rome, which presides in love over all the Church.”
It was noted that in the early church the bishop’s role was more one of uniting the people and coordinating the Church community.
Pope Francis concluded: “As a Church which ‘walks together’ with the people, participating in the travails of history, cultivating the dream which is the rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and the function of authoritative service, it can help even civil society establish itself, in justice and fraternity, generate a more beautiful world more worthy of mankind for generations which come after us.”
We sensed an ambition for the Church’s mission in the world in this very positive and hopeful paragraph.
Planning a way forward
The ACI Web Site
Recalling the heretofore lively dialogue and sharing of ideas, we tried to figure out the reason for the present largely one way communication while the number of ‘hits’ continues apace. In response to the suggestion that articles and contributions tend to be a bit lengthy, it was suggested that responses can be as short as one or a few sentences. In retrospect one wonders if by moving more in the direction of dialogue on the site we could be releasing ACI ‘synergy and potential for on-going faith formation.
Eucharistic Services in the absence of a priest
There was a discussion on the need for such a facility generally. The experience seems to be different in different parishes with some parishes having these services on a regular basis whereas they seemed to be discouraged in others. Ringsend Parish has these twice weekly. They are well attended and a good example of what is possible.
The idea of having a dialogue on the readings rather than a homily was discussed. Some members spoke of having experienced this kind of approach on an exceptional basis and found it very effective, enabling full community participation in the celebration. It was felt that this type of “pew participation” could be helpful in faith formation. Communication between priest and congregation and within the congregation was seen as a way to promote real communion and faith formation.
It was suggested that an evening on this subject in the North Wicklow area would be worth exploring. Sean McDonagh who was involved in the Encyclical, would be available to contribute. We agreed to explore this with the local Parish Pastoral Worker.
We ended with a brief positive evaluation of the meeting.
Sept 18/19 2015 Excellent Conference on ‘Laudato Si’ in Balally Parish attended by a number of members.
Oct 15 2015 Information evening on Laudato Si presented by Fr Sean McDonagh in Leighlinbridge Parish.
Nov 5 2015 Catholic Conversations in Shalom House. Belfast –third in a series.
Nov 14 2015 Conference on Social Justice and the Family –All Hallows, Dublin.
Nov 19 2015 Information evening on Laudato Si in The Model, Sligo.
Nov 25 2015 Meeting with Archbishop Eamon Martin.
The website has 50 to 75 hits a day but more contributions /discussion needed.
Next North Wicklow Meeting
Thursday 26th November at 8.00 p.m.