Catholic institutions from several continents have joined together to launch a free online course in synodality that will be open to bishops, priests, religious and lay people around the world.
The project is coordinated by members of the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in collaboration with the Formación Continua of the Jesuit School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.
In a media release outlining the course, the organisers say:
“The Synod on Synodality was inaugurated in October 2021 by Pope Francis and will culminate with the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023,” the course organisers say in a media release.
“This event represents a new stage in ecclesial life that invites us to generate processes of conversion and reform in order to build a Synodal Church for this third millennium.
“The present intercontinental and intercultural project proposes to accompany formation of more than 100.000 people in the theology and practice of synodality through a series of free online courses to support all the people of God —bishops, priests, religious men and women, lay men and women— who have been called to this process of ecclesial renewal.
“All the courses are completely free of charge and will be offered online in several languages —Spanish, English, Portuguese, French and Italian. In addition, speakers from all continents will participate in the courses, which will allow us to have a global and intercultural vision of the Church.
“The first course will be held in July 2022. Over a period of three weeks, different topics on Common discernment and Decision making in the Church will be offered. We invite you to register and get involved in the challenge of imagining and building the Church of the third millennium.
Organisers of the program are Dr Rafael Luciani (Venezuela), Dr Carlos María Galli (Argentina), Dr Agenor Brighenti (Brazil) (Latin American Members of the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod) and Dr Félix Palazzi (Director of “Formación Continua,” Boston College School of Theology and Ministry).
It is sponsored by the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM), the Council of Bishops Conferences of Europe (CCEE), the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), International Union Superiors General (UISG), the Union of Superiors General (USG), the Latin-American Confederation of Religious (CLAR), the Union of European Conferences of Major Superiors (UCESM), and the Conference of Jesuit Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean (CPAL).
Lecturers will include Prof. Luciani, Sr Nathalie Becquart and Bishop Shane MacKinlay of Sandhurst, all of whom spoke at ACI webinars on synodality in 2021.
Thanks to Teresa Brierley and MN News for allowing us to reproduce Teresa’s remembrance of the late Bishop Bill Wright of Maitland-Newcastle, who died on Cardijn’s birth anniversary, 13 November.
It is difficult to know how to begin this week’s message, with the news of the death of Bishop Bill Wright. Like me, many of you may have been thinking of him and holding him in prayer over the past few months, but nothing prepares you for the finality of someone not being there anymore. I have been struck lately by his empty chair in our Cathedral, and now it is really empty as we await a new Bishop.
I was thinking of him on Saturday as I attended The Cardijn Lecture, hosted by the Australian Cardijn Institute on The Emergence of Synodality: The Latin American Experience, presented by Professor Rafael Luciani, a Venezuelan lay theologian.
You may wonder why Bishop Bill was particularly on my mind. Both Bishop Bill and I, along with other people from across Australia, were part of the Young Christian Students Movement (YCS) of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This is a student run movement which uses the Joseph Cardijn method of “SEE, JUDGE, ACT” which enables students to SEE what is happening in the world around us and analyse facts, to then JUDGE this in light of our beliefs and the Gospel, and to take ACTION to transform not only the world around us but ourselves. YCS still exists and forms part of our diocesan outreach to young people.
Formation as Christian leaders
I was thinking of Bishop Bill and me, and how the YCS was so critical to our formation as Christian leaders, not only then but now and in all of the intervening years. I recall leading small groups in which we would reflect on Gospel passages and then the following week do what was called, the Review of Life. At quite a young age we learnt how to read the scriptures in light of the world around us and to then take action. It challenged us to look beyond ourselves in the light of the teachings of Jesus. Not only would we meet each week at school or in the parish, but we would have holiday YCS camps, where we would gather with young people from across a number of schools. I recall attending a couple of camps at Morpeth before I moved to Sydney. Like Bishop Bill, these experiences were life-changing for me and many others, who continue to lead our church from a ‘synodal’ position. We learnt the method of journeying with each other, of deep listening, of reflecting on encounters in the light of faith and of responding.
You may be interested to know that Bishop Bill died on the birthday of Joseph Cardijn, (13 November 1882 – 24 July 1967). Joseph Cardijn was a Belgian priest who devoted his life to bringing Christianity to the working class and advocating for an end to the dehumanising influences that were enforced onto them. He began the Young Christian Worker Movement (YCW) from which the YCS has its origins. I wonder if this is what led Bishop Bill to explore some of his priestly ministry in places like Moree and Mt Druitt. Like Joseph Cardijn, Bishop Bill saw the priesthood of the ordained as a means of bringing positive change and hope to those he encountered.
The Movement plays a role in seeing the world as it should be, and not as it is. I hope in this phrase you can hear echoes of synodality. Rafael Luciani spoke about synodality and the continual work of renewal and reform that is required in our church. Like the YCS, synodality is a movement of formation and change in which we respectfully journey with each other, from both grassroots and hierarchical organisations.
Council for Mission
During the webinar, on Saturday afternoon, I remembered the change management project introduced by Bishop Bill in 2017, which we call, Many parts, One body, One mission. The thinking behind these core changes sought by Bishop Bill was around having overt structures of participation across our diocese in aiding the curia to serve the diocese better and to work better together. He identified four core areas for change:
Instituting a ‘Council for Mission’ for the whole diocese, which will review our overall direction as Church, establish priorities for the development of our ministries, agencies and services and foster collaborative initiatives between agencies. The Council will meet regularly throughout the year and establish this as a priority.
The Diocesan Executive will be expanded to include Directors of agencies to enhance information sharing and opportunities for joint planning and projects across the curia.
Existing agency Boards and Councils will be charged primarily with exercising governance of the agency directly, through each Director, and providing periodic reports to the Diocesan Executive.
Within the curia, bringing together resources and services that all areas of the curia may benefit from, and which do not need to exist as separate units in each agency. This will enable agency leadership to focus on core business, reduce confusion across agencies and diminish duplication of staff and resources. This will also enable staff in these areas to have opportunities for broader experience.
While a lot of what Bishop Bill imagined has been accomplished, there is still work that needs to be done in achieving his vision for a more collaborative synodal diocese focused on God’s mission in our diocese. He would become very frustrated if the talk was only about structures and not about our core business of being the Good News of God’s love for all of humanity.
The following words come from a document which is ‘under construction’ as part of the work of one of the Synod Working Party’s Focus Group on Governance Principles and Documentation:
By virtue of their baptism, all the faithful enjoy true equality in dignity and action. Hence, all are called to co-operate, according to their particular circumstances and responsibilities, in building up the Body of Christ and in fulfilling the mission that God gave the Church to accomplish in the world. The organic nature of ecclesial communion and the spirituality of communion require the Bishop to evaluate the structures of participation envisaged by canon law. These structures guarantee a dimension of communion in the pastoral governance of the Bishop, insofar as they generate a kind of reciprocal interplay between what a Bishop is called to contribute to the good of the diocese through exercising his personal responsibility, and the contribution made through the collaboration of all the faithful. The Bishop should keep clearly in mind that these structures of participation do not take their inspiration from criteria of parliamentary democracy, because they are consultative rather than deliberative. Fruitful dialogue between a Pastor and his faithful will unite them “a priori in all that is essential, and… [lead] them to pondered agreement in matters open to discussion”. In promoting the participation of the faithful in the life of the Church, the Bishop will recall the rights and duties of governance to which he is personally bound. These include not only witnessing, nurturing and caring for the faith, but also cherishing, defending and proposing it rightly.
The co-ordination and marshalling of all diocesan resources requires opportunities to gather for joint reflection. The Bishop needs to make sure that these encounters are well prepared and not unduly long, that they have clear objectives and achieve tangible results. In this way, with a genuine Christian spirit, the participants establish a good mutual rapport and sincerely seek to collaborate. (N.165 Congregation for Bishops, Directory for The Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, Apostolorum Successores, 2004)
I believe this forms the legacy for our own diocesan synodal journey during Bishop Bill’s time as Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. We have been striving to create structures with a focus on both our need for spiritual and structural conversion so that God’s mission can be accomplished in this time and place. Pope Francis refers to this as our search for a new institutional model of Church for the third millennium.
Fiat voluntas tua
Bishop Bill’s last words to me in a text on Friday afternoon were, Fiat voluntas tua (Thy will be done) from one of his favourite prayers. I will finish with his other favourite prayer, the prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola, which both of us know from our years in YCS:
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served, to give without counting the cost, to fight without counting the wounds, to work without seeking rest, then to spend my life without expecting any other in return, then the knowledge that I do your holy will, Amen.
Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, may he rest in peace. Amen.
Teresa Brierley Director Pastoral Ministries 16 November 2021
Venezuelan lay theologian and advisor to the Synod of Bishops, Professor Rafael Luciani, has described the 2023 Synod Assembly on Synodality, as the “most important event since Vatican II” and one that signifies a “turning point” in the way the Church approaches the Council.
Professor Luciani, who will deliver the inaugural Cardijn Lecture for the Australian Cardijn Institute on 13 November, added that the Synod preparation process, which is launching globally this month, will be centred on “the ecclesiology of the People of God,” which was first introduced by the Council and has been emphasised many times by Pope Francis.
This idea, he says, means that the relationship between the People of God and Church is “not hierarchical anymore, that it is differentiated, but complementary”.
Moreover, a “bishop needs the other, including priests and lay people,” which changes the whole relationship.
“This is what co-responsibility is all about,” he noted.
According to Prof. Luciani, another key novelty of the 2023 Synod will be the enhanced involvement of theologians in the process of listening and discernment aimed at creating this new synodal Church and the inclusion of theological reflection in the structures of the Church. In this sense, it is a real “kairos” moment for the Church.
“We don’t have theological reflection on one side, and people, on the other, saying: ‘How do we bring that into the real structures in the Church’.”
“My expectation and hope that there will be a real dialogue and consensus.”
Speaking to NCR Online, Prof. Luciani added that the aim is an enhanced “new ecclesial way of proceeding inspired by a practice of transparency and accountability.”
Cardijn Lecture: “The Emergence of Synodality: The Latin American Experience”
Rafael will share this experience in the inaugural ACI Cardijn Lecture on the theme “The Emergence of Synodality: The Latin American Experience,” which will take place on at 1.00pm AEDT on Saturday 13 November (Friday evening 12 November US time).
The event will be co-hosted by the US Cardijn Network and Pax Romana USA.
Dr Elissa Roper, who completed her PhD on “Synodality and Authenticity: Towards a Contemporary Ecclesiology for the Catholic Church” at Yarra Theological Union and the University of Divinity this year, will respond to Rafael’s presentation.
Previously, Elissa was also a member of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission. She was a member of the Victorian Council of Church’s Faith and Order Commission for six years, and is currently the VCC Liaison Officer on the Board of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia. She and her husband have four children.
Joseph Cardijn was the founder of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement and a Council Father at Vatican II.
More information: Stefan Gigacz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Rafael Luciani of Boston College joins us for an ACI webinar on Saturday 13 November 2021 on the theme “The Emergence of Synodality: The Latin American Experience.”
Professor Luciani will speak on ecclesiological and pastoral roots and implications of synodality, particularly in relation to the reform of parishes, the development of councils at parish and diocesan level, including the role of lay people.
Secondly, he will share the experience of the Plenary Council of the Venezuelan Catholic Church as well as local synods in Argentina, and the launch of the new Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon.
A lay Venezuelan theologian, Professor Luciani has served as an expert to the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops. He has also been an expert for the Latin American Council of Bishops (CELAM) as well as a member of the Theological Advisory Team for the Presidency of the Latin American Confederation of Religious men and women (CLAR).
He is Full Professor at the Jesuit Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas and Professor Extraordinarius at the Ecclesiastical Faculty of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College, Massachusetts, USA.
Professor Luciani also holds the degrees of Doctor in Theology and Licenciate in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome; Baccalaureatum in Philosophy and Baccalaureatum in Theology from the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome; and Licenciate in Education (with mention in Philosophy) from Andrés Bello Catholic University.
He did several years of postdoctoral research activities at the Julius-Maximilians Universität in Würzburg, Germany. He has also served as Director of the School of Theology and Coordinator for the creation of the Theology Area of the General Graduate Studies (for Lay Scholars) at Andrés Bello Catholic University.
Responding to Rafael will be Dr Elissa Roper, who completed her PhD on “Synodality and Authenticity: Towards a Contemporary Ecclesiology for the Catholic Church” at Yarra Theological Union and the University of Divinity this year.
Elissa currently manages a Program of Theology for women in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands; a partnership in tertiary theological education between the Sisters of Mercy and the Divine Word University. Her writing has a focus on developing foundations for Catholic ecclesiology in a new era of synodality. She explores how such foundations may support the praxis and good governance of synodality.
She and her husband have four children.
Elissa was also a member of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission. She was a member of the Victorian Council of Church’s Faith and Order Commission for six years, and is currently the VCC Liaison Officer on the Board of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia.