Blink and you’ll miss it – the Synod on Synodality!

October 25, 2021

The vademecum (handbook) for the Synod on Synodality is readily available and, if you have a spare hour or two, is well worth reading.  However, let me quote a little from it to give you an idea of what you will find:

Pope Francis is calling the Church to rediscover its deeply synodal nature.

            …a crucial moment in the life of the Church and the world.

All of us are called in virtue of our Baptism to be active participants in the life of the Church.

The mission of the Church requires the entire People of God to be on a journey together, with each member playing his or her crucial role, united with each other.

There is a comprehensive and visionary understanding of what is being asked of us, the People of God.  We are told that the purpose of our proposed journeying together, to discern what the Spirit is inviting us to do in order to grow as a synodal Church, is nothing less than “to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”

Furthermore, the document calls on bishops to make this process as inclusive of as wide a range of people as possible, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, and places great emphasis on the importance of the processes themselves as synodality in practice.  In other words, regardless of outcomes, we will have learned valuable lessons along the way.

The roadmap is clear and the processes of listening and discernment familiar to anyone who has participated in the preparation phase of the Plenary Council.  There is just one huge obstacle.  The lay consultation phase in Australian dioceses ends on the 17th December!  The timing for this could hardly be worse.  The most engaged of Catholics are exhausted after the recent first session of the Plenary – but the Bishops and their diocesan offices must especially be so.  Half of Australia is dealing with all the weariness of extended lockdown and cautiously navigating how they will emerge out of it.  Christmas is already on the horizon.  And we have just 8 weeks from today (Sunday 24 October) to organize “the widest participation possible” for a process which is demanding and time consuming, albeit not without rewards.

So what do we do now, if we want to be part of this historic journeying together as the global People of God?  Find out what your diocese is doing.  Look out for other opportunities to engage.  However, you don’t have to wait.  There is everything you need to know on the Australian Catholic Bishops’ website ( and you can gather your own group together for prayerful discernment.  There are three guided discernment processes to choose from (on communion, participation and mission), and there is also the option of making an individual reflection and submission as a last resort.  So pack your bags for the journey.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make a difference, for your own sake, for the sake of your companions on the road, and ultimately for the future of the church in the world.

Patricia Gemmell

Patricia has a Masters in Theology, is a member of the Australian Grail National Leadership Team and has been a parishioner of St Leonard's Naremburn for 34 years.