Towards a Synodal Pathway for the Catholic Church in Ireland’: Nicola Brady

Mar 2, 2022 | 4 comments

Nicola Brady

Recording of this event, held on 24 Feb ’22 is available below

Dr Nicola Brady is the Chair of the Steering Committee for Ireland’s National Synodal Assembly. She has recently been appointed General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).

She has particular experience in the area of faith-based peace-building on the island of Ireland and internationally, including human rights advocacy, support to victims/survivors, facilitation of civic dialogue, community engagement with policing, and research across a broad range of issues relevant to reconciliation.

She is a Director of Christian Aid Ireland and the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, which works to extend the lessons of German-Polish reconciliation post-World War II to other conflict areas.

On Thursday 24th February Dr Brady spoke via Zoom about the vision for the Synodal Pathway. She outlined the planning work underway and how this relates to the work being undertaken for the Universal Synod (2023) – and shared some of the questions and learning emerging as the steering committee progresses.

She then spent over an hour fielding questions from an eager Zoom attendance of over 130 – and responding to comments that reflected the entire gamut of Irish experience of synodality so far.

“The Synodal Pathway Steering Committee does not direct what happens in dioceses or parishes.​”

While some have already had rewarding experiences of listening and being heard, others tell of little or nothing happening in their own space so far – and wonder how synodality is to become a reality for themselves if no  formal means of participation is provided in their own locale.

Explaining that the steering committee does not direct what happens in dioceses or parishes, Dr Brady emphasised that informal exchanges between acquaintances, in a spirit of shared concern for the rebuilding of relationships, post-pandemic, will qualify as ‘synodal’ also. We do not need to suppose that only formally arranged events, organised within the existing diocesan and parish church structures, can qualify.

She urged everyone interested to convey to others the openness of the process, and that synodality is to be considered more as a permanent way of relating to one another from now on, than as a time-limited effort directed only towards a scheduled end, e.g. the 2023 synodal assembly of bishops in Rome.

No one should feel excluded from the question of what God is wanting from the whole people of God at this time, as we emerge from a place of lost trust and many hurts. No one’s experience is unimportant and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is not confined to the ‘academically qualified’. To become the mutually compassionate ‘field hospital’ of Pope Francis’ vision, the church now needs everyone’s gifts.

This quick sketch does scant justice to the ground covered by Dr Brady and the other participants in over 90 minutes. A complete recording of the event is viewable below.


  1. Sean Connell

    I have been very hurt by the bypassing of the laity in the Synodal process in my diocese and the failure to ask us to pray to the Holy Spirit for help with the process
    I questioned a leading priest about this and he said that the Irish people were not ready for this and that it was the laity who were being clerical and not the clergy
    I am now 75 years old and have since my confirmation been very devoted to the Holy Spirit and have received much more grace and love than l could ever have deserved
    I feel it is an insult to the Spirit the way he has been ignored

    • soconaill

      ‘The Irish people are not ready for this!’ If ever there was a self-fulfilling prophecy that was it, Sean. How could that priest know that if he did not provide the opportunity? He isn’t truly ‘leading’ anyone anywhere, is he – just blaming others for his own inertia? An insult to the Holy Spirit indeed!

      How many other dismal prophets and disappointed people are there out there, I wonder? We are hoping to provide an opportunity for an open Zoom discussion on the Irish progress of synodality for ACI members and anyone else interested – in the near future. Please watch this space and keep praying!

  2. Kevin Walters

    Sodality: For Pope Francis, this means ‘walking together’ or ‘collegiality’ – as opposed to top-down control.

    Quote for a very good article see the link below “False ideology of power that was the source of the malaise in the Church. Bouyer puts it as follows:“ And when this happens the sacraments too, and most especially the Eucharistic liturgy, can become a form of ritualism. Bouyer puts it thus: “… celebration of the mysteries would become a ritualism, divorced from both subjective faith and the collective life and its organization willed by Christ, and would nourish nothing more than a mystique of evasion” (emphasis added).

    And this organization (Collective life) willed by Christ is now manifest as an ongoing separation of the ordained Priesthood with the Priesthood of the faithful.
    Jesus conveys His intent to His disciples at the Last Supper “I have eagerly desired to eat (Share) this Passover with ‘you’ before I suffer

    The Angels and the Saints continually rejoice before the Eternal Sacrifice and we are drawn into communion with them when in our own given time here on earth we partake of (Memorialize) the sacrifice of the Mass in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, through an ordained Priest. And this communion is initiated by the breaking of bread.

    When the Priest initiates the Sacrament by breaking the bread the intent behind the action (Breaking of bread) is one of sharing in the body of Christ. The intent precedes the action, so the action of the breaking (Sharing) of the bread must not take place unless there is a Communicant present, for a priest to do so would be a sacrilegious act, as in effect the priest would be ‘holding’ the Will of God in contempt.

    The intent behind the action of Jesus Christ breaking bread is one of sharing when the Priest breaks the bread, he has to stay true to His intent this necessitates a communicant as he cannot share it with himself.

    “So how can a priest Consecrate the Host in isolation?

    Quote from another source “Rediscovering the essentials of our faith” which are: “Our relationship with Jesus and the preaching of his Gospel.” And that relationship is one of sharing in the Eucharistic sacrifice reflecting Unity of Purpose in brotherly love and underpinning that relationship is the serving of the Truth in humility in all situations.

    Quote from Peter (See the link at the end of this post) who said “ Kevin is among those many really innocent souls misled by a generation of priests following Vatican II”

    My response I have read that the 1917 Code of Canon Law, when the traditional Latin Mass was the norm, then-canon 813.1 stated unequivocally “that a priest could not celebrate Mass without the presence of a ‘minister’ who would serve the Mass and make the responses”

    So, no Peter I did not learn this from a generation of priests following Vatican II.
    As it is fair to say that in the 1950s, I would have homed in on this through a fair number of priests who were born in the Victorian era. Although I do remember a priest once asking for the ‘presence of anyone who could respond in Latin, in this, we see a change from a minister to a lay member of the church at the latter end of the 1950s.

    This rapid change (In relation to Church history) can be seen in the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858–1916), who was unable to offer Mass regularly because of his apostolate as a hermit in northern Africa. He petitioned Pope St. Pius X for a dispensation that would permit him to say Mass alone he had to wait many years for news of his dispensation on Jan. 31, 1908. “In the 20th century, from then on, the Church began to relax the restriction that prevented priests from saying Mass alone, leading to

    Quote “For generations, the Church’s position was firm: If a priest wanted to offer Mass, there had to be at least one other person present. Otherwise … the Mass could not be celebrated, period,” “The 1917 code’s refusal even to permit a priest to offer Mass in the absence of a congregation was actually much more stringent than the 1983 code’s canon 906, which allows a priest to say Mass alone for a ‘just and reasonable cause.’”

    1983 code’s canon 906 “ Except for a just and reasonable cause, a priest is not to celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice without the participation of at least some member of the faithful.”

    Leading to Canon 904: “Daily celebration is earnestly recommended.”

    Can. 904 Remembering always that in the mystery of the eucharistic sacrifice the work of redemption is exercised continually, priests are to celebrate frequently; indeed, daily celebration is recommended earnestly since, even if the faithful cannot be present, it is the act of Christ and the Church in which priests fulfill their principal function

    So, in just over 100 years, we have gone from
    A priest could not celebrate Mass without the presence of a ‘minister’ who would serve the Mass and make the responses
    To Canon 904:

    “Daily celebration is earnestly recommended.”

    So, If I had lived a hundred years ago it appears that in my uneducated thinking based on trust/faith in the His inviolable living Word I would be very closely aligned to the teaching of the Church at that time which goes back to the very early church. While to my understanding The Orthodox Church does not and has not permitted her priests to say Mass without a participant (s)

    So, what has changed? (No one has responded)

    So, why does a highly educated Conservative/traditionalist with others not want to hold onto the Truth of this particular traditional teaching given to the Church by Jesus Christ at the last supper which has been practiced by the Church down through the ages?

    Could it be that in our present-day it reinforces Clericalism- Merriam-Webster: Clericalism; a policy of maintaining or increasing the ‘power’ of a religious hierarchy.? And doing so further decreases the shared Priesthood of the faithful making them no more than inconsequential docile participants rather than true brothers and sisters in Christ; for if the faithful were treated so, these words would become a reality

    “A humble heart (Church) will never cover its tracks or hide its shortcomings, and in doing so confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability /weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart (Church) to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own ego/self, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other”

    Please consider continuing with my posts given via the link with the theme
    “How can a priest Consecrate the Host in isolation?

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  3. Kevin Walters

    Sr. Gabriela of the Incarnation. Quote; as I said in my article religious institutes have been practicing synodality for centuries. It is the primary form of government for us. In the Carmelite Rule, it is stated that ““On Sundays too, or other days, if necessary, you should discuss matters of discipline and your spiritual welfare; and on this occasion the indiscretions and failings of the brothers, if any be found at fault, should be lovingly corrected.”
    The phrase that is translated as “tour spiritual welfare” is literally “the salvation of souls”. This shows the priorities inherent in synodality.

    See the link.

    My response: Thank you for your excellent linked Article Sr Gabriela on the practicing of synodality within religious orders with its prioritization ”for the salvation of souls”
    From your article religious life is surprisingly egalitarian. It is not a dictatorship or unlimited monarchy, in spite of stories that parade the power of “Mother Superior” or “the Father General”.

    To my understanding, many of my comments reflect the fundamentals of your essay as given by an uneducated layperson like myself.

    I believe that Confirmed Discipleship (Male and Female) is the way forward for the Church in our present-day: As to-day for many it is easier to accept the status quo as we the ‘laity’ have been led for generations as The Eucharist is the centre of Christian worship and by implication, the priest is our ‘Focal Point’, as he is given a special charisma via ordination.
    This has led to unquestioning docility within the flock manifested as deference which has feed Clericalism Merriam-Webster: Clericalism; a policy of maintaining or increasing the ‘power’ of a religious hierarchy.?

    Whereas you say “contrary to what many people think, religious life is surprisingly egalitarian. It is not a dictatorship or unlimited monarchy, in spite of stories that parade the power of “Mother Superior” or “the Father General”

    So how does the Church replicate this egalitarianism to include the flock?

    I believe that the Shepherd leader for a new invigorated Church will be a humble one, with the capacity to discern and direct the potential in others, leading them also to become (Working) Shepherds, who together hold each other responsible for their combined actions, underpinned by total honesty, the serving of the Truth in all situations would be the binding mortar holding these new emerging structures together.

    The essence of Love is Truth we all fall short in the actions of Love, but no man or woman can excuse dishonest before their brothers and sisters in Christ who would serve the Truth, for to do so would be an attempt to destroy the mortar (Humility) of that unity.
    It is said you cannot be what you do not see/envisage, we need to see our Shepherds holding the bright lamp of Truth high above their own vulnerabilities, teachings us by example, in humility, how we are also to be made holy (Sanctified) as in

    “Sanctify them in the Truth; thy Word is Truth as thou didst send me into the world so I have sent them into the world and for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth”

    It could be said, that for true emotional inter-dependence to come about with others, we need to show/tell our vulnerability, for when we do so, it confers authenticity, a place from where we can truly share the communal meal and our life with others.

    Food for thought: ‘The Emmaus encounter’ incorporates ‘joyous living’ in sharing (breaking) the Bread (Sustenance) of Life publicly, but not the Wine (Blood) suffering of full (Confirmed) discipleship (Focal point) of His Way.

    Please consider continuing via the link

    kevin your brother
    In Christ


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ACI’s Campaign for Lumen Gentium 37

The Promise of Synodality

What we have experienced of synodality so far gives ACI real hope that a longstanding structural injustice in the church may at last be acknowledged and overcome.

As all Irish bishops well know, the 'co-responsibility' they urge lay people to share - as numbers and energies of clergy decline - has been sabotaged time and again by canonical rules that deny representational authority and continuity to parish pastoral councils.  ACI's 2019 call for the immediate honouring of Lumen Gentium Article 37 becomes more urgent by the day and is supported by the following documents - also presented to the ICBC in October 2019.

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church
It was Catholic parents and victims of clerical abuse who taught Catholic Bishops to prioritise the safeguarding of children in the church

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God
It was for challenging religious hypocrisy and injustice that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the common priesthood of the laity and for the challenging of injustice - in society and within the church.

A Suggested Strategy for the Recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church
Recovery of the church depends upon acknowledgment of the indispensable role of the common priesthood of the lay people of God and the explicit abandonment by bishops and clergy of paternalism and clericalism - the expectation of deference from lay people rather than honesty and integrity.

For the full story of ACI's campaign for the honouring of Article 37 of Lumen Gentium, click here.


"Come Holy Spirit, Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen."

Saint Pope John XXIII, 1962 - In preparation for Vatican Council II, 1962-65.

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