News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
by Father Philip Inch,
Over 1500 people gathered on a windy Sunday afternoon to witness a historic moment in the history of the Archdiocese. It is over 60 years since the last Diocesan Synod in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. In the official Decree Convoking the Synod, which the Archbishop signed on the Feast of the Epiphany 2019, he said: ‘I call on Synod 2020 to discern how we might respond in a practical way, both now and in the future, to the call of the Gospel to be missionary disciples’.
The liturgy in the Cathedral was both dramatic and poignant. The 500 Synod members made their profession of faith, they were sent out by the Archbishop to listen to the voice of God speaking in the people, religious, deacons and priests of the Archdiocese. Confident that this listening would not be just to the dramatic, loud, clamorous voices, but to the still small, gentle voices. This was dramatically presented by pupils from St Bede’s High School in Ormskirk as we heard about Elijah hearing the voice of God in the gentle breeze.
The Gospel proclaimed was the presentation of Jesus in the Temple witnessed by the old priest, Simeon and the prophetess, Anna. The Archbishop spoke about the song of the old. As Simeon held in his arms the child Jesus he was able to sing a new song, he was able to behold a new day. And this new day was to be the salvation for all people.
From Simeon Jesus heard the first human hymn that was composed out of love for him. Simeon could go in peace because he had seen the saviour of the world. This is the new day, this is the new dawn that our Synod is calling us to witness.
In his homily Archbishop Malcolm said, ‘Maybe we can ask Simeon, the prophet to help us remove the evening and the night from our eyes and see brightly as we enter upon the road together towards Synod 2020. As we hear Simeon’s song our vision is changed. When we listen to each other our vision will be changed too. We believe that because we are baptised the Spirit of God lives in us, that is the spirit of Jesus whom Simeon cradled in his arms; that is why this change will happen within each of us. It is with confidence then that we can look to the future as we walk together on the road ahead of us.’
The Archbishop then solemnly proclaimed Synod 2020 reminding us that Pope Francis sees Synodality as the Way for the Church in the 3rd millennium. Telling us that it is our duty to discern carefully what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in the Archdiocese and to agree on common actions and directions for the future. Archbishop Malcom called on us to be creative and bold in the task of rethinking the structures, style and methods of evangelisation in our various Archdiocesan communities.
With the music (led by the pupils of St Julie’s High School, Liverpool) of the specially composed Synod hymn, ringing in our ears we left the Cathedral fired for the task ahead. In the words of Archbishop Malcolm, ‘The journey ahead towards Synod 2020 may seem long and arduous, and there will be many diversions and setbacks, but with the hope of Simeon and Anna in our hearts, we will come to a new vision for our archdiocese and it will be transformed into the church that we are called to be.’
Gathering of the Synod Members:
The 500 Synod Members gathered together for one of three days in the middle of February. These days were to inspire them and equip them for the tasks ahead.
The gatherings took place in St Joseph’s Parish Centre, Chorley on Saturday 9 February, in LACE on Wednesday 13 February and at Christ the King Parish Centre on Saturday 16 February.
Each day began with an inspiring and stirring input from Father Eamonn Mulcahy CSSp. He suggested that the Liverpool Synod has grown from the inspiration of Pope Francis and particularly from his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Evangelli Gaudium’, The Joy of the Gospel. Picking up from the Archbishop he shared his understanding of Pope Francis and Synods.
He reminded us that each of us by our baptism are called into a compassionate communion and together, as we listen and discern the way forward, we will catch the whisper of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit speaks to the Churches. Father Eamonn told us that in the understanding of Pope Francis the path of discipleship must be lived synodally. Starting with our personal relationship with Jesus we are all called, as the pilgrim people of God, to be bold and courageous.
He finished by saying that Synod 2020 is a Kairos moment for our Archdiocese and he called on all the Members of Synod to make ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ the guide book, the road map, for our Synod journey.
Professor Stephen Bullivant, from St Mary’s College, London, spoke to the Members about the situation in the Church in England and Wales today. It was particularly challenging to hear about the 52% of people who describe themselves as non-religious in our countries and how even amongst those who were baptised as Catholics over half of them no longer identify as part of the Church.
One of the most striking and shocking results of his study is that for every one person who is joining the Catholic Church 10 are leaving it. Professor Bullivant is about the write a sequel to his book about the changes that have taken place to describe the hopeful shoots of new life that are just beginning to show forth. So he left us with a realistic picture, but there is hope. It is into this situation that the Members of Synod, in fact all the people of the Archdiocese, are called to be missionary disciples.
Canon Chris Fallon helped us to see this situation from the lens of the Liverpool Archdiocese. It is, as he described it, a picture of ebbs and flows.
• Successive waves of immigration have made us the church we are today.
• Fewer and older priests are serving fewer active Catholics in slightly fewer churches but almost as many people still want baptisms, first communions, marriages and funerals.
• An expansion of new ministries (the restored diaconate and lay involvement in pastoral roles) has begun and needs to be developed.
It is truly ebbs and flows. Is the situation of the 1930’s (which is similar in some ways to our situation today) the norm or is the norm the years of expansion seen in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Prayer was integral to each of the Synod Members gatherings. We were inspired, we were made aware of the situation we are facing now and in the immediate future. But I think each Synod Member left the gatherings with a good heart, ready to undertake their tasks, full of hopeful admiration of the step the Archdiocese is taking under the leadership of Archbishop Malcom and more confident that in Synod 2020 the voice of God will be heard guiding us to become the Church God is calling us to be.
The next steps:
• All the Members are invited to Discernment and listening preparation.
•In late April and early May there will be a gathering in each pastoral Area of the Synod Members from that part of the Diocese.
•Members will undertake listening gatherings in parishes, schools and where ever possible so that we can hear as many voices as possible
•10 focus groups are meeting so that we hear every voice.
•The Synod Survey is ‘live’ on www.synod2020.co.uk Please log on and let your voice be heard.