Rev. Professor Peter McGrail addresses a room full of seated people then to the banner of our diocesan synod

Key themes revealed as Diocesan Synod enters new stage

Saturday 18th May 2024

Care, connectivity, and future-proof faith have been highlighted as key hopes for the future of our local Church as we launched the next key stage of our diocesan synod this weekend.

On Saturday 18 May, hundreds of people from across the diocese gathered together for the latest update in our diocesan synod journey.

The day focused around the four principal themes that emerged from the Big Listen stage of the process, which drew to a close in January.

The four themes are:

  • Nurturing Faith for Tomorrow’s World
  • Building Connections
  • Enabling Access
  • Fostering Christ-Like Care

Dr Emma Swai, Researcher from Liverpool Hope University explained the outcome of the Big Listen stage of our Synod, from which the key themes have been drawn:

“We’ve listened really hard to all the responses- the loud as well as quiet voices. These key themes have been drawn out from all the group and individual responses of the Big Listen process and across all the themes, one image of the Church in Salford Diocese that stands out is, “we belong together!”,

“We received a clear and positive response that shows that everybody is in it together, more like a team moving in the same direction. And this is a relationship that people want to nurture, grow and support.”

The day – which was attended by Synod Members made up of parishioners, clergy, seminarians, religious sisters, and more – began with a quiet period of prayer and reflection, before attendees were introduced to each of our four themes.

Presentations from Rev. Professor Peter McGrail and Dr Emma Swai from Liverpool Hope University unpicked the detail of each of the themes, referring to carefully curated quotes and examples that were gathered from Big Listen sessions that took place in schools, parishes, and community groups across the diocese over the winter months.

For example, response from children and young people showed how thirsty and fascinated they are about the faith and how hugely positive they are about the church in our diocese.

“The children and young people of our diocese want to be more involved, to grow, to connect with God and people, to learn more about Christ and develop their faith. And so, investing in children and young people is clearly essential for the future of the church in Salford diocese”.

Dr. Emma said one of the things she was really impressed about is the growing awareness of the need to be more open to listening to each other and to listen together to the Holy Spirit.

Speaking on “listening together”, Rev. Professor Peter highlighted that we are never meant to be a Christian on our own, so building connections is part of who we are, and is contained in the DNA of what it is to be Catholic.

Wanting to be Christ-like emerged very strongly in the big listen responses, and there was a very strong link between being Christ-like and being empathetic, recognising and protecting the dignity of others.

“Moving forward and building on what we already have as a diocese, the church in Salford diocese wants to be an anchor in community, a safe space, where people are welcome and barriers to their faith are removed”.

Attendees were then invited to spend a little time reflecting on the purpose and distinct nature of a discernment process before taking part in four short Listening Exercises on each of the themes and sharing with the wider group.

Some comments from attendees: 

“It is a blessing to know that priests are valued by the faithful”

“Change will be challenging, but we must not be afraid of it. We just need to be careful and sensitive about how we manage it.”

“We, the people are the Church. This recognition that the laity are important in moving the church forward and are being listened to, excites me and gives me hope for the future”.

“Every parish has its individual strengths and successes and building a network between parishes encourages shared ideas and motivates across the diocese”.

“I am excited to know the Church is open to explore ways of giving children and young people the chance to be more involved and have a voice as part of the new evangelisation of the church today”.

The day came to an end with closing remarks from Bishop John, who reflected on the information that has come to light so far in the process and how we are now being called to respond.

Bishop John emphasised that it is important for us as a Church to continue to journey in love and unity, as members of the body of Christ, ambassadors for Christ and the family of God on mission.

“Love for God and neighbour ought to be the centre of anything we’re trying to achieve and it is important we recognise that we are one body and not just a community but the body of Christ on a mission.”

Next Steps

Synod Members are now tasked over the coming months to organise and facilitate Theme Gatherings in their parishes and communities to explore these themes in more detail with as many people as possible.

The aim of the Theme Gathering is to:

  • Provide parishioners with the opportunity to explore the four separate themes that have emerged from the Big Listen;
  • To further embed the practice of synodal listening in parishes, schools, and groups;
  • To progress and move our synodal journey forwards towards the Proposal Stage, by identifying a maximum of two key proposals for each of our themes.

The Theme Gatherings will be taking place in parishes, schools, and key groups between July and November, with responses being gathered once again at the end of our liturgical year.

Please keep tabs on our website and your own parish communications for further updates on how you can get involved, or speak to your parish priest or Synod rep.

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