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Synodal Pathway of the Catholic Church in Ireland

St Anne's Parish, Portmarnock

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A Synod is a gathering of people, or priests, or bishops to help the whole Church move forward in unison.  The Synod is an ecclesial event and more importantly a Spiritual Experience in union with the Holy Spirit.  A synod is not a parliament or opinion poll. Rather the Synod is a place of encounter and not confrontation.  

SYNODALITY  is a path or a journey that the People of God take together with each other. In this synodal pathway all the People of God take their part and make their own contribution. When we walk together as the People of God it’s called synodality. 

The Synodal Pathway is a shared pastoral event to MAXIMISE PARTICIPATION BY BUILDING INCLUSION INTO THE WHOLE APPROACH. Three pastoral principles inform the whole process: Sharing –hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. Taking part – based on the model of a co-responsible Church and the equality of baptism - Reaching Out – going beyond the parish gates or the church door. 

Brian Heery was appointed as Animator for the parish and participated in the Archdiocese training.  From there further leaders were trained who would manage the pods at the events in March. Announcements at Mass and publications were distributed across the parish to generate interest for the two planned meetings

March 9th & 23rd


We had a fantastic attendance at our meetings with 118 people attending and 3 submissions online. The enthusiasm of the attendees could be felt in Teallach Aine. The total number of observations and questions submitted was 398. We want to thank you all for the great work in getting the message out and also thank you to  the leaders who coordinated the pods around the room.  

There was commonality across the pods and here are the common themes:

  • More needs to be done about the lack of priests. 

  • The role of women in the church needs to be expanded in support of the priests and clerical duties such as becoming deacons. 

  • The role and contribution of the laity in the day-to-day operation of the church both clerically and administratively should be expanded through ministries. 

  • Parishes need to develop Outreach programs that will entice new residents in the larger suburban areas. This may also require the expansion of services being offered in the church that makes it more welcoming. 

  • Greater focus is needed on joint ecumenical services across parishes for feasts such as Lent, Easter and Christmas. 

  • Teaching of religion in schools is declining so there needs to be an alternate solution provided in parishes to ensure children receive proper instruction. 

  • Music ministries should receive greater support to ensure there is greater participation by attendees at mass. 

  • Increase participation by children across all the Sacrament to make them more engaged and contributing. 

  • The face of the church needs to be less authoritarian. 

  • Inclusion of people who people who feel ostracized, excluded and unwelcome must be elevated both through a more inviting church but also through instruction to the parishioners of the necessity that they get rid of personal bias against these individuals. (LGBT, divorced, married to non-Catholic, etc..).  People are expressing theological statements on the rights of these people to participate in the church and its sacraments. 

  • Expand the role of priests’ secular lifestyle to include marriage as an option. 

  • That the church continues to be more transparent and caring by continuing with programs such as the Synodal Pathway to hear peoples’ opinions. 

  • Greater use of online media to teach and attract young adults.  This needs to be a dedicated Ministry with young adults leading.

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Communal Discernment:

As the Church Militant we need to be more engaged with the will of Our Father. He has sent the Holy Spirit as a guide in these trying times for the church so we will have the Graces necessary to do His will. 

We cannot as individuals, continue to drift aimlessly along in the Church not knowing what to do or where we are going.  The synodal Pathway was given to us so we could hear what the Holy Spirit moved people to reveal regarding where the Church needs to do more in serving the needs of all the people of God, practising and non-practising. 

We need to look around and say, “Where have they gone!”, the people God has brought into this world to be saved so they can live with Him in eternal Glory. 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” Matthew 25:31-40.  

So, look around you and do not just see with human eyes, but also with spiritual awareness. For the ‘hungry’ see those who lack of knowledge of how God’s grace can feed their souls. For the ‘stranger’ see those in the community who are not welcomed into the Church. For the ‘naked’ see the lonely and dispirited, who lack hope. For the ‘sick or in prison’ see those who we treat as outcasts because of their history or lifestyle. 

The Synodal responses have given us an insight into the many opportunities that we have at our disposal in the Church to become active participants in rebuilding our Church.   The ‘hungry’ through teaching and good example. The ‘naked’ by reaching out and giving them reason to be inspired. The ‘stranger’ by going out and welcoming them. The ‘sick or in prison’ by stopping the judgemental thoughts that prevents us from seeing them as our equal. 

When we face our Creator, we need to be able to say, “my Jesus, forgive me, I wish I could have done more to bring your people to You, but I tried as best as I could.” 

August 15th 2022 - All submissions sent to the Synod of Bishops

At the National Pre-Synodal Assembly in Athlone in June this year, the following were

the closing remarks by Bishop Brendan Leahy, deputy chair of the Steering Committee

of the Synodal Pathway: 

“The Church approaches this synodal process with great humility, conscious that there

is much work to be done to build relationships of trust within and beyond the Church. 

We are called, not only to listen respectfully to one another, but to what the Holy Spirit

is saying to the Church as a whole.  There was concern for those who do not yet feel

included and a desire to think creatively as to how we might reach more people with

the invitation to engage with the synodal process and with the local Church community

more widely. While each diocese had its own particular experience of the Synodal

Pathway, nevertheless what we heard today were many common themes emerging across

the country – North and South – such as: 

  • the continuing importance of faith in people’s lives

  • reflections on the sense of belonging

  • expressions of how abuse is part of the story of the Church

  • a call for much greater roles of women at all levels in the future of Church

  • attention to sexuality, relationships and LGBTQI+ concerns

  • references to topics such as education and catechesis, youth, family and co-responsible leadership, lay ministry, culture

  • the impact of Covid-19

  • faith formation, clergy and liturgy

It is clear from today’s gathering is that there is a great responsibility on everyone to build on the listening that has taken place to date, with actions that will help the Church to be more pastorally sensitive, to be a place of welcome and belonging for all, and to better support people to live out and share their faith.  In short, today has been an invitation to rediscover the presence of Jesus in our relationships in everyday life, starting in the family,” Bishop Leahy said.


National Synodal synthesis is an opportunity for reflection,

dialogue and action by Irish church

Nicola Brady (Chairwoman of the Steering Committee)   Mon Aug 15 2022

We need to learn from the past. There is recognition that we are a church in need of healing at every level and, as a survivor of abuse who engaged in the process remarked, ‘we need to find a forum in which we can all heal together.’” This is one of the many deep and varied insights and reflections offered in the national synthesis of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which has now been submitted to the Vatican’s Synod Office as part of the Synod on Synodality called by Pope Francis for 2021-2023 with the theme For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.

The completion and publication of the national synthesis is a significant milestone in the synodal pathway of the Irish church, and it will be marked as part of the National Novena to Our Lady of Knock tomorrow, which has as its theme A Journey in Hope. Synodality is about journeying together as a community of Christians, seeking to follow the example of Christ by sharing faith through encounter, particularly with those who are vulnerable or marginalised.

Knock Shrine offers a special and sacred place of pilgrimage for people on their faith journey, and it is fitting that it is here that we will offer the national synthesis as a resource for reflection, dialogue and action.

The national synthesis reflects the work of many people, from local to national level, as we seek to discern the important themes and areas of focus from the many views and experiences that have been shared. The themes identified in the document are: Abuse as part of the Story of the Church; Co-Responsible Leadership; Clergy; Lay Ministry; Sense of Belonging; The Role of Women in the Church; LGBTQI+; Sexuality and Relationships; Adult Faith Formation; Liturgy; Youth; Education and Catechesis; Family; Covid-19 Pandemic; and Culture.

It also offers reflections on areas that did not feature as prominently as might have been anticipated, and begins the work of pointing us towards some conclusions, although it is clear throughout that this is not the last word, but rather a contribution to an ongoing and deepening dialogue and a support for pastoral action.

Not long

The synthesis is not a long document and it is important to read it in full because the themes are clearly interconnected and all will require careful attention and reflection as the synodal process develops. Decisions about next steps will be informed by collective discernment, grounded at local level, in keeping with the synodal approach. The national synthesis does not seek to recommend specific actions at this point, but rather to reflect faithfully what has been heard in the course of the dialogue and listening undertaken thus far, including those areas where there are tensions and opposing views.

The national pre-synodal assembly in Athlone on June 18th provided an opportunity to reflect on these challenges and tensions in advance of the preparation of the national synthesis. It was a hope-filled experience because it demonstrated that it is possible to explore these differences in a way that is relational, rather than adversarial. The centrality of prayer and scriptural reflection to the methodology was an essential foundation, repeatedly calling our attention back to our shared belonging in Christ.

The prayer walk through the ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise that closed the day conveyed that, while so much has changed in the church over the centuries, the faith has endured and the Christian community here is still journeying together. There are deep wounds within the church, but also a willingness to find ways to heal together and restore trust, reminding ourselves what is essential and precious about our faith, a gift to be shared.

Global connections

From here the synodal journey will continue on many different levels. Being present in Knock, an International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine that welcomes pilgrims from all over the world, reminds us that our synodal journey in Ireland is connected to a much wider global community.

As the Universal Synod progresses we will be challenged to listen to the experience of the church in countries devastated by war — and this year’s Novena programme includes a Day of Prayer for Peace in Ukraine — in communities at risk of being wiped out by famine or climate change, and in the many different contexts where lack of opportunities are robbing people of hope for the future.

The strong sense of shared responsibility that has guided our synodal process so far, from the local to the national level, has been a great encouragement. It is hoped that this will continue to to motivate us to develop our skills of deep listening and discernment, as we reflect on the significance of our national synthesis, and the different voices of the church around the world, asking what God wants of us in light of what we have heard.

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