Summary of the Synod's progress in the dioceses

Diocese of Bydgoszcz

Diocesan synthesis (PDF version below)

SYNODAL SYNTHESIS

Contact:

Rev. Dr. Marcin Jiers (Director of the Pastoral Department of the Diocesan Curia in Bydgoszcz)

e-mail: duszpasterski@diecezja.bydgoszcz.pl

Introduction

For the past 18 years, synodality experiences have been accumulated in the Diocese of Bydgoszcz and are continuously deepened. Bishop Krzysztof Wlodarczyk intensified the Pastoral Plan of the Diocese of Bydgoszcz by appointing appropriate bodies, advisory groups, individuals and thus began the process of renewing the pastoral structure. One of the indirect effects of the synodal activities is the initiation of systematic reflection on the essence of the Church and pastoral praxeology. The synodal meetings highlighted the need to lean into practice in the perspective of a succinct formula that encapsulates the code of pastoral vision and the need to continually develop it: Jesus Christ renews us and the world. The Church of Bydgoszcz is a young, welcoming and supportive community of faith that lives the Eucharist. We confess that it is only in Jesus Christ that God gives us salvation, and therefore we take up three great challenges for today and tomorrow: (1) to love God for His sake, (2) to live a life of belonging as disciples and discipleship (3) to undertake missionary tasks.

From this perspective, “strategic directions” emerged – a basic vision aimed at recognizing pastoral challenges (ad intra and ad extra) and proportionate responses (pastoral synergy, implosion).

Based on consultations and feedback, Bishop Christopher Wlodarczyk initiated the Synodal Way in Bydgoszcz in the fall of 2020. One of the working groups has been working on local church issues and has so far established more than a dozen discussion forums. Here, the dignity and importance of all the baptized in the work of responsibly developing and shaping the Church is emphasized again and again. Women and men from various councils, associations, as well as individual believers are committed to exchanging views with pastors. Reading the signs of the times in harmony with the Church’s teachings, they jointly seek ways to renew and put current problems in order. The main goal is to be and remain the Churcha community close to God and close to man.

The Synodal Way Working Group of the Diocese of Bydgoszcz has developed a catalog of questions on the synodal themes of communion, participation and mission. It has been posted on the diocesan website. From November to the end of March 2021. groups, parishes, associations and individuals were able to directly and anonymously answer questions and share their insights. Several hundred responses give a good insight into how differently the Church is perceived (quantitative and quantitative survey). The synodal work and the joint prayer discernment revealed major differences in the understanding of basic concepts and experiences regarding fundamental ecclesial issues. The repetitions and parallels show that certain assessments thread through as a common denominator, through the responses and emphasize their often emotional coloring. The dynamics and ambivalence of the various statements permeate each other, pointing to the constant need to explore and seek answers to the question: what is the Church? Therefore, we must look for new ways to avoid the mistakes of the past and regain our credibility. We want to participate in this process consciously – both in the local Church and in the universal Church.

Key slogan of the synod: Communion

The vision of a renewed Church – the result of the ambivalent experience of the Church.

The Church is local, tradition-conscious, open-minded, timeless, future-oriented, visionary (in terms of ideas, values, pastoral planning and purposefulness of actions taken), socially engaged (involved in politics yet free from its influence), sensitive to the needs of those most in need. He advocates open discussion; promotes a culture of criticism, patiently listening to the voice of interlocutors; and is able to persevere despite mistakes, lapses and face them. By authentically preaching and listening to the Gospel, it enables individual faith formation in the community. It creates space for frank exchange of views without fear of judgments. He recognizes and takes seriously the realities of believers’ lives. It has a diverse accessible message and accepts a variety of life forms. It integrates them, strengthening the community. It educates in the spirit of Christian values. Those involved in pastoral care – pastors and close associates communicate with each other in an open and binding way, seeing themselves as members of a team. Parishes are led, in addition to the pastor, by selected and qualified lay people together with him. All baptized persons enjoy the same rights, have the same dignity, are heard and participate in decision-making processes.

The role of the pastor has been redefined. The pastor is supposed to have time for pastoral care (in the classical sense of St. Gregory the Great), he is supposed to promote the community, show a real readiness to talk, see the person and the real needs of his parish, take concrete action. In order to integrate into the local community, a culture of friendliness is needed for both community members and those who are not affiliated with the Church. The Church does not just revolve around its own problems, but shows more zeal for the message of faith and speaks boldly about it. Personal testimony of faith is not judged, but treated as a wealth, a potential for further growth in faith. Professionally conducted biblical formation – including in ecumenical cooperation – broadens the horizons of faith, connects it to life and enables joint activities of Christians in the field of political and social affairs. It awakens a vision for the Church and everyday life – as a community that is also needed and useful to non-believers or the indifferent.

Ambivalent experience of the church in specific terms:
Church – parish / place of worship – pastor – pastoral care – formation of liturgy of services – spirituality / common prayer

The following selected quotes and descriptions representatively reflect the ambivalent range of experiences.

The church is seen toward two extremes: from a small homeland, home to a place of hatred. The term Church itself is difficult for many to define. Among the opinions expressed were: faith space; small homeland; strong community; community of all the baptized; “I am the Church”; “vehicle in need of thorough repair”; “old, timid and tired”; “concubine of the state”; “institution without cordiality”; “organization with a supposedly religious character”; “something for the older generations”; “the synodal way is destroying the Church.” Opinions positive actions of the Church are interspersed with negative slogans; “greater presence of laymen in decision-making processes”; “growing polarization between traditionalists and progressives”; “an enlightened community in which universal human rights are taken for granted only theoretically”; “the Church’s offer is too poor to put down roots”; “lack of presence of charismatic people capable of giving authentic witness to the faith”; “places (associations, communities, church educational institutions, groups) foster open conversations about faith and doubts”; “in the community I find real trust”; “questioning the hierarchy and commitment to tradition fosters the renewal of the Church”; “a lot of voluntary commitment”; fraternity; exchange; conversations about faith; the need for “a sense of self-responsibility “need more respect for people than for buildings and structure.”

The role of the pastor is viewed ambiguously[1]. – on the one hand, as absent and uninvolved, and on the other hand also, as a sought-after guide on the paths of faith. The pastor’s right and duty to perform administrative functions has been repeatedly criticized. “One senses very accurately who is the real pastor”; “exaggeration and idealization of the priest’s image” and “his language and way of teaching make it impossible to accept the faith”; “the pastor’s lonely decisions alienate and alienate him”; “there is a lack of willingness to have direct conversations”; “understanding of the language of the community”; “respectful contact; openness to all people”; “they should marry and start families.” There was also the phrase “the priest’s indecent behavior…. outrages parishioners.”

Quality pastoral care is seen as a desirable good and a need for many of the faithful. This is an absolute value that is often lacking in the realities of parish life. Respecting and valuing people’s life experiences; sincere willingness to talk; “hospital chaplains very good”; “poor quality of ministry puts people off”; “too formalism”; “need for good confessors”; “doubts are legitimate and lead to deeper understanding of faith and concretization of Christian life.” “pastoral care going outward; need for individualized approach to individuals”; “without cash register, the problem cannot be solved”; “lack of view of the realities of life and overemphasis on the material dimension of parish functioning”; “recognition and appreciation of the work of volunteers; “cooperation with non-church associations and institutions and NGOs.” Pastoral care requires constant building of trust, security, time, adequate space.

Evaluations of the way the liturgy is celebrated fluctuate between acceptance and numerous requests for change. “sermon, homily must enrich”; “rituals deepen my faith”; “cabaret performance”; “varied; variously arranged”; “low quality of church music”; “liturgy is to be celebrated with due reverence without trivializing the Mystery”; “without experiments and unnecessary embellishments”; “increasing appeal to young people; taking children seriously and involving them”; “linking liturgy without platitudes to daily life”.

Spirituality / common prayer: “less psychologizing – put the Lord God at the center”; “there is a need for a holistic view of man in the physical – mental – religious dimension”; “the Church needs “good, loving, committed priests and laymen who are interested in spiritual life, who are on fire with love for God and the Church.” “The Church is detached from life; boring; too little is said about doubts and what faith means to us; empty words; life and words do not go hand in hand”; “difficult issues in the Church (abuse of power, sex scandals) hinder the possibility of finding oneself in the community.”

The key slogan of the world synod: participation. In parishes, active participation in what happens in the Church is seen in ambiguous ways. A third of respondents confirmed the involvement of the faithful in consultation and decision-making. This is primarily possible in association movements. Others confirmed the involvement of the faithful, but not in all areas. In particular, it was noted that certain topics are considered “untouchable” (specific examples from the survey: economics, how to appoint a pastor, parish administration, priest’s lifestyle, etc.). Lack of opportunity to participate: More than half of the survey participants do not experience any participation in their parish, or feel there is a lack of it. The reasons for this are “lack of interest on the part of pastors,” lack of listening to the voice and needs of the people, “poor flow of information from the various bodies and poor competence of the pastor,” “rigid requirements in terms of hierarchy and administration,” “lack of criticism,” but also “lack of community/relationship among the faithful, which has resulted in a lack of a living bond with the Church.” This often leads to frustration and anger. One statement is characteristic: “there are actually quite a lot of motivated people who are currently frustrated with the authoritarian facade management of the parish – a feudal system”; “a lot of what is said goes unheeded and is simply ignored”; “young people are not seen and their ideas and interests are not heard”; the parish “does not allow them to participate in the decision-making process.” Some respondents found the manner of governance “opaque, detached from reality and unsuited to the requirements of the situation.”

The attitude of priests toward those involved in the life of the Church: participation also depends on the person of the priest and the faithful. In order for participation to take place, committed people with certain social competencies are needed. They should be people-oriented and communicative, accompany and support, be able to delegate and bring others into a defined area of responsibility, and recognize people’s real problems. It was also mentioned that due to the heavy workload and responsibilities in many parishes, pastoralists are often invisible and inaccessible, and sometimes even programmatically avoid contact with people; “for me, pastoralism, is caring for each individual soul. To do this, the pastor must also be visible to the community, open to spontaneous appeals to him. He must not back down and say that we know when the parish office is open.”

Condition for participation at the layperson level: The prerequisites for good cooperation and the basis for participation are: “trust and respect, support and assistance, openness, forbearance, sincerity and kindness, personal responsibility and promotion of individual self-reliance, as well as showing possible ways to achieve priority tasks for the Church”; “encouragement and reinforcement, a culture of kindness and the opportunity to participate in decision-making on an equal footing”; “willingness to compromise and give freedom of expression”; “to think of others and listen to each other. Good cooperation between pastoralists and laymen takes place when “responsibility is delegated in a way that takes into account talents and qualifications, and when the possibilities and limits of involvement are respected.”

Church of participation: “Participation means taking seriously the predispositions and charisms of individuals.” That’s why it’s important to “take seriously the competence of elected bodies (parish councils, among others)”; “they should be able to carry out what they were elected to do.” Outside the Commons, spontaneous forms of participation and involvement are needed to “enable as many laymen as possible to contribute their own ideas and thoughts.” However, this requires making the work of boards and councils more flexible. The Church of participation presupposes an analysis of how power is exercised because “a rigid, clerical understanding of it prevents serious, competent participation by the faithful. Hierarchy is often understood as an overly rigid system that thinks and acts top-down.”

At the diocesan level, therefore, it is necessary to create framework conditions for the active participation of the laity.The first step into the future is to establish transparent decision-making processes at both the diocesan and parish levels. What is needed is a deeper understanding of authority in the Church that enables, complements and supports the independent action of individual responsible persons. Responsibility should also be delegated where lay people can and should act independently.

The future-oriented Church feeds prudently on new ideas. It therefore needs co-shaping and co-determination on the part of youth and adults, as well as authentic dialogue between pastors and the faithful. The Church is stretched between the divine and the human, and therefore cannot act according to the slogan: “let’s do business as usual.” Parishes that consider themselves very independent and follow their own paths need to be strengthened and promoted: “this inspires greater confidence toward lay involvement.” There must be room in the parish for “thinking differently” and activities with those who do not identify with the Church. Raising the profile of church volunteerism (not only within the framework of Caritas activities) contributes to the emergence of more responsible ministries for existential problems in individual communities.

The key slogan of the world synod: mission

The central task of the Christian mission is to proclaim the Good News. In order for believers to carry out their mission, they need an encounter with God in the Liturgy and in the Diakonia. Among the most common opinions was that “we are too closed-minded and unconvinced of the value of what we ourselves have to give to the world.” Poland’s overly homogeneous religious and social structure has “made the faithful lazy in terms of missionary outreach to the world.”

Bible Formation

The importance of learning the Scriptures was mentioned just as often. In addition to personal reading, they emphasized, the need for community exploration of the content of the Word (e.g., during Bible discussions or in new creative forms – bibliodrama, etc.).

Sacraments, prayer and the life of faith

For many, faith signifies an existential decision, provides a sense of strength and support, and is described as a personal relationship with God (“An important foundation in life!”). The church is valued as a place where faith is transmitted and creates space for personal decision-making. This can be facilitated by good locations of churches, monasteries as centers of spiritual life, the possibility of regular confession, 24-hour adoration.

Meeting the people

Community is a necessary condition for realizing one’s vocation. Community strengthens, but it is also challenged again and again. The Gospel should be lived out in daily life, especially in serving others (“Be close to people – in joys and in all difficulties!”). The two commandments of love are the most important commandments for all of us, the axis of Christian life.

This can be fostered by: every commitment on the part of clergy and laity, quality pastoral care with permanent persons in charge, openness to all sectors of society (a prior observation: “all those who think differently are not welcome!”), accompanying young people in their search for a vocation, the meaning of life, closeness to the faithful, respectful dialogue, modern communication, …

The mission requires structures and participation

Among the negative phenomena are: bureaucracy, overgrowth of the authority structure, pastoralists’ authoritarian understanding of the office, “dusty” views (e.g., in the field of morality), blocking of innovative ideas, nullification of volunteer involvement; hypocrisy in dealing with the problem of abuse, outdated doctrines, deprecation of the Synodal Way, ineptitude during the coronavirus epidemic. Many participants want mutual recognition of each other’s mission and structures that help promote active participation (“I dream of a Church of the first centuries without official pomp and the cult of the individual!”).

Mission requires openness and freedom

The Church no longer reaches out to many sectors of society partly consciously and partly unconsciously, is the perception of many respondents. Mention is made of the lack of willingness to change from various sides or knock-down arguments like “No one will go there anyway…”. The marginalized groups often go unnoticed – neither by pastors nor by all the faithful. The Church often sees only its own believers (“Outsiders are too afraid to invite them!”).

On the other hand, positive examples are also seen in the pastoral care of the sick, the elderly or refugees, in the work of Caritas (“Caritas is a really great thing”).

For the Church to move well into the future, there is a need to admit mistakes, be open to diversity, draw closer to the world and continue to develop and even reform. Specific demands are being made:

– Openness to families/children and youth and recognition of those who are marginalized or excluded (refugees, homeless). The evangelical imperative is to go to the excluded (see Pope Francis). Openness to reform (“I want to be taken seriously as an independently thinking Christian!”)

Summary

We see our mission and our task in today’s world as joyfully, openly and in solidarity loving God for His sake, living with an attitude of discipleship and practicing missionary commitment. The editorial group of this study of the Diocese of Bydgoszcz focused on feedback from the survey described in the introduction and meetings of individual groups of believers. The feedback reflects the ambivalence in the perception of the Church in our society.

Deficits and shortcomings have been clearly and unequivocally named (lack of ecclesial self-awareness, lack of a friendly, spiritual dimension to the Church, abuse of power by priests that hurts and demotivates), so that as a Church we can continually grow and strengthen our relationship with God and people. The feedback evaluation also revealed many positive insights about faith and the Church. On this basis, longings / perspectives for the future were revealed: a longing for spiritual depth, intensification of personal relationship with God through prayer, Bible study and mutual deepening of faith; a longing for community. In addition to experience in larger communities, smaller communities are also important. The faith lives on in parishes, associations, communities, monasteries and educational institutions – these are what make the Church approachable, personal and attractive – the “Church of first contact.” In this way, the Church can be a small homeland and give people a much-needed refuge.

In addition, many synod participants reveal:

desire for pastoralism in the original sense of the word: pastoralism that is close to the people, that has a high quality. Continuous improvement of priests’ competencies, intensive spiritual life and regular exchange of experiences among pastoralists are pointed out as conditions that enable pastoralists to grow,

The desire for solidarity and subsidiarity: small pastoral units are supported by larger units, but not replaced. As much responsibility as possible should rest with individual lay leaders,

longing for the proper exercise of authority in the Church: the clergy must serve to proclaim the Good News and build the Kingdom of God and cooperate with the faithful,

Longing for new, creative models of governance (pluralism): Greater participation and shared responsibility of lay people – men and women,

Longing for the participation of many in the life of the community (inclusion): A path must be taken from a congregation that is cared for to a congregation that is self-sufficient. We want to motivate, support and assist this. The different abilities and charisms of the faithful should be recognized, awakened, promoted and used to build up the congregation.

longing for a Church that lives in the spirit of Jesus and is for the people: active love of neighbor is and remains the fundamental, core mission of the Church, which must be further developed. In this way, God’s love for people becomes tangible.

The Diocese of Bydgoszcz wants to continue on the synodal path. The number of men and women, clergy and laity involved in the life of the Bydgoszcz Church is its great joy. We accept these great challenges of the present times and we want to carry the faith and build the Church further, we want to be close to God and close to people.

[1] The following are listed as positive qualities and behaviors of pastoralists: awareness of vocation, deep faith, true superficiality, living according to principles, attention to worship and teaching, concern for people, love for the Church, apolitical (in the sense of party, while being involved in social issues), selflessness. Lack of faith, secular way of life, materialism, lack of authentic piety, violation of moral principles, lack of sensitivity to people’s needs – low quality of relations with the parish and local community, erroneous anthropological vision – an extremely negative understanding of the human being) are indicated as unequivocally negative characteristics.

Diocesan synthesis (PDF version)

Diocesan synthesis Diocese of Bydgoszcz

Summaries of the synodal process in other dioceses

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