Diocese of Radom
The document encompasses in this brief synthesis all that flowed out during the meetings of the synodal path of the Diocese of Radom. All ecclesial circles, such as parishes, communities of consecrated life, Catholic movements and associations, specialized ministries, as well as informal or not necessarily strictly confessional groups, were invited to the synodal meetings. There were also several more general meetings within the diocese, the fruits of the exchange of ideas of which are also reflected in this synthesis.
It is fair to say that not all the invited groups responded positively to this invitation, and among those that did, one could also see varying levels of commitment. To some extent, this was due to the distrust that could be seen among the faithful for such a way of working, caused by the association with the negatively perceived German synodal way and some controversy over the end of the Synod on Amazon. Over time, as we became more familiar with the proposed path and more deeply involved, the initial prejudice largely gave way to a positive attitude. This was also served by the way the meetings were conducted, which always included prayer, listening to the word of God, listening to each other and reflection related to the life of the Church, especially the local one. In order for the synodal path to actually be a journey together in reflection regarding the Church and to have a truly synodal character, we only accepted as mandatory the fruits of group work, at the diocesan level we did not decide to use unit surveys.
The variety and diversity of ways in which the meetings were conducted, as well as the multiplicity of topics touched upon, resulted in a wealth of insights and reflections. In order not to lose this diversity and richness as much as possible, we decided to present the results of the work of the diocesan synodal path in a form that deviates somewhat from the proposed ten leading themes proposed to the synodal groups in the preparatory documents, on which we also based our diocesan aids. We decided to combine these topics into larger groups so that it would be closer to the way the participants in the synod groups spoke. This was also due to the fact that certain issues were actually addressed residually, such as the topic of ecumenism. The rationale was usually the social and religious homogeneity of the areas of our diocese.
1. HIKING TOGETHER
Participants in the synod road affirm the sense that the Church is a walk together on the path of salvation. “Every day the Lord God places in our paths people who are given to us as help or simply placed for daily fulfillment. This shows that we are not alone on our road to salvation, although sometimes it may be the road to Mount Tabor and sometimes the road to Golgotha. Every day we stand between the glory of Tabor and the suffering of Golgotha.” In the minds of the members of the synodal groups, three groups of people, i.e. clergy, laity and religious (less often consecrated persons), have been clearly identified, which interact with each other to form the community of the Church.
The basic reality in which the community dimension is realized is the parish. It is a place that has an impact on the development of faith and the experience of the Church. “Here I listen to the word of God, partake of the holy sacraments, adore the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Here I can also serve others in different ways.”
Community in the parish is based overwhelmingly on the relationship between priests and laity. The main problem of life within the Church, beyond the narrow confines of the parish, probably also comes down to this relationship. This cooperation was the subject of the most speeches on the synodal road. The overwhelming majority of the members of the synodal groups are laymen, so the syntheses of these groups are dominated by observations, both positive and negative, and comments and expectations of priests. Of course, the attention and the amount of space given to this issue does not come only from the number of lay participants in the synodal path, but is certainly also derived from the condition of the clergy, the situation of the Church and the way various problems are perceived.
Increasing secularization, liberalism, exuberant individualism and consumerism were identified as significant problems that strongly determine mutual cooperation between priests and laity. These phenomena are often the cause of new forms of atheism or the formation of false authorities.
While appreciating the commitment of priests, their dedication, expressing their gratitude and respect, and recognizing their increasingly difficult situation in modern society, they also point out the many shortcomings and deficiencies associated with the priestly ministry. Some note that a priest is, after all, a human being, so it would be naive to expect his attitude to be perfect in all dimensions. However, they point out that more than one element of a priest’s attitude is the result of a lack of formation, sloppiness, carelessness, or even a lack of personal culture, or even a lack of faith. Specifically, one points out, for example, succumbing to the temptation of the “easy life,” materialism, haughtiness, arrogance, isolation, lack of openness to the faithful, being an official and treating the priesthood more as a profession, routine, constant haste, entanglement in improper relationships, bias, addictions. A necessary consequence of such attitudes is the bad testimony given around, which causes distrust and distancing of many people from the Church. Of course, it is also recognized that many accusations against priests flow from generalized negative opinions related to their lives or even a stereotypical view of the priesthood. At this point, one can’t help but think of the “uproar following confirmed and publicized cases of immoral behavior and crimes committed by the clergy,” especially among young people and those on the periphery of the Church.
However, the issue of cooperation between priests and laity is primarily a problem of mutual trust and openness. There is still a lingering view among many priests that activities in the Church and parish should be the domain of priests, they are supposed to be in charge of everything. In many laymen, in turn, this results in a comfortable withdrawal combined with ceding all responsibility to priests. They only assume that the role of the layman is to materially support the activities of the Church. In others, on the other hand, it causes a sense of frustration and lack of any influence on the reality of the Church, including the way the local Church functions. This results in the deepening of the belief that “the Church is them,” i.e. the clergy.
Hence the calls for greater openness to the laity in all dimensions, while preserving and respecting the proper vocation of the laity and clergy. “Not to overlook, let alone exclude, any person; to be open to every person, regardless of their social status or views; to listen to others, trying to understand their opinion, asking ourselves where that opinion comes from; to look in one direction at what unites us rather than divides us. It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit uses different people, so we are to live with an open heart and open eyes to see His guidance. Be authentic in relationships with others.” Among the laity, there is no shortage of prepared people whose substantive potential can make an invaluable contribution to the Church’s mission. “The Holy Spirit uses different people in the Church: the poor, the rich, the healthy, the sick, the educated, the uneducated, people who have been wronged in life. All life experiences can serve in the Church.”
A special field of cooperation, accompaniment is all kinds of groups, communities and associations of lay people. “Thanks to the involvement of these groups, we see that the parish is ‘alive,’ that the priests are active extra-liturgically, we feel needed and can find our place in the community.” “A parish is a community of communities, so it’s good as if conditions were created in them for their activity and development; directing a “favorable” view of communities by pastors and priests. There is also a need to integrate the various communities operating in a parish, to undertake joint activities, initiatives, evangelization works – reaching out to other faithful of the local Church. In fact, there is no synodal synthesis in which the claim about the necessity of groups and their advantages is not repeated. “In order to grow in the community of the Church we need: small groups, preaching on various occasions, support for those already involved in the life of the Church, openness to new people.”
Groups and communities help the faithful find their place in the Church, help them abide in it, but they are also able to reach out more easily to those who remain on the margins of the Church or have already left it. The exclusion of individuals, although not always, is usually their individual and conscious choice. Among them are people who are baptized but not practicing, people in non-sacramental relationships, people who are preoccupied with the world, migrants, homosexuals, people of other cultures and religions, addicts, and the homeless. “Also left on the sidelines are those who, even while in the Church, have not been evangelized.” To some extent, they may also include people who are sick, disabled and elderly, or even men who live alone. Specific was the voice of those associated with traditional circles. “We feel tolerated, but unwanted.” They have a sense of marginalization of their experience of the liturgy and are concerned about the tendency to extinguish it.
Certainly, the Church is getting farther and farther away from the youth, who are heavily influenced by the media and the prevailing fashion. Hence the increasing acts of apostasy in this group. These groups require special attention to reach and accompany them. Children and adolescents require that such environments be created for them, where their sense of belonging will be satisfied and, at the same time, they will be a place for the transmission of God’s values. “Showing the beauty of the Church, its richness and that there is a place in the Church for young people is very important, crucial. Experience the living God and that the Church is not only the Eucharist, although the most important. Different forms of religious experience are needed. The inclusion of this group in the life of the Church is certainly served by catechization, but it must be carried out at the appropriate level. School catechization alone is not enough, the one at the parish is also necessary.
One cannot help but add that there must never be a lack of mutual prayer for each other by the various groups that make up the Church community.
2. LISTENING AND SPEAKING UP
Faith is born from what one hears. Hence, first of all, the need to “listen to the word of God, which is an inexhaustible treasure. If possible, it is good if it is its joint listening and consideration. And this is the first condition for listening to each other later. With prayer flowing from the heart, listening to the voice of God, it is possible to grow in faith and love and walk together.”
Mutual listening is done on several levels. The priestly ministry of the word necessarily involves listening on the part of the faithful. Usually it is the priest who interprets the word of God, and the laity are the listeners. This is the direction we are accustomed to, but some demands are being made here as well. For listening to be possible one needs an appropriate, i.e. first of all understandable, accessible way of speaking. The language must not be hermetic, it is to be understood by all outsiders. Otherwise, a barrier is created. The subject matter is also important. In addition to homilies, the syntheses point to the need for catechism sermons that address current issues in people’s lives, but without political emphases. Hence, the faithful value the presence of priests who are endowed with the gift of the word and are able to share it. They even consider the time spent attending the retreat fruitful. They also point to the homily’s brevity as an important advantage.
The Church is a community of communities, and in order to build this community and walk the path of salvation together, one needs to listen to each other. From listening comes joy, reflection and a sense of participation and shared responsibility. In order for the laity to fulfill their mission by serving their experience, they need space to share it and be heard. Sometimes there is a complaint about too little flow of information between priests and laymen. Therefore, they point to the need for priests to become more involved in building mutual relationships with parishioners and creating opportunities for meetings outside the chancellery. A good opportunity for this is even a pastoral visit or even a pastor going out to the faithful after Mass. The syntheses emphasize how important it is to seek a common space for dialogue with young people; to let young people act; in listening to others, to want to understand, not judge. “We often hear each other, but we don’t listen to each other.” To improve mutual listening one needs to engage communities to build relationships, bonds between parishioners. You can start by integrating communities, by “presenting” them in church, undertaking joint activities, e.g. parish festivals, caroling together. It is also necessary to build the awareness of priests (pastors and vicars) that without their “first” step, going out to the communities, to the parishioners, it is impossible to build relationships between parishioners, to create a platform for dialogue and integration. Priests seem to be the natural leaders/pastors – the initiators of relational ventures. You need to move away from judgment, prejudice, and try to be responsible for yourself. We should learn to notice even a little good in our neighbors, appreciate the weak and stand up for them. They stressed that there is a great need to listen to men and activate them. Listening to each other is helped when the listener and speaker know each other, when there is calmness and focus, curiosity about the topic being addressed, and the form and manner of the message (the ability to convey the content in such a way as to interest others). Media messages and technology also help. Certainly, respect for each individual facilitates listening, while entering into roles, hierarchy in the Church hinders this listening. They are also hampered by the imposition of their views on others, a lack of experience and understanding of the reality of the Church, a lack of unity, the moral weakness of Church people and the scandals that come with it, and often too much distance between priests and the laity, or an inappropriate mode of communication. In order to be heard, you also need to be in the right place at the right time, especially where it is and speaks: youth, minorities, the excluded, people on the periphery, etc. Listening is a virtue that requires humility, which must be perfected in oneself. The reasons for not listening are their own biases, bad attitudes, and lack of listening skills. In order to listen well, we need to get rid of our biases. By listening, i.e. offering our time to someone, we let it be known that this person is important to us, that his or her problems and life are also important to us. Younger participants in synodal groups sometimes feel that they are not being listened to in the Church; according to them, the opinion still persists that young is “stupid,” and that only age and experience count. Many times there is also an unfair belief that only statements, suggestions of wealthy people, holding various positions, holding various functions, are taken into account, while non-wealthy people remain in the shadows, are withdrawn. So there is a suggestion, why not conduct some kind of general survey or even place a question box in the parish for better communication, so that everyone’s voice can be heard. This will result in perhaps not so strong statements that “there is no dialogue in the Church. There are pulpits, radios and televisions – everything broadcasts, nothing receives,” and the critical voice of the laity towards the institutional Church in a situation of some irregularity will not be treated as an attack by priests.
The means of communication are playing an increasingly important role in this mutual listening. However, care must be taken to ensure the high professionalism of this mode of communication. It seems indispensable for every parish to have an up-to-date website or to communicate with its parishioners through other social media as well. This is all the more true for a diocese or the whole Church in Poland. This will make it at least easier for the Church, when needed, to respond in a timely manner.
One can hope that the beginning of a fuller listening is the synodal process.
3. SHARED RESPONSIBILITY IN OUR COMMON MISSION
“Walking together” is understood as the realization of Christ’s prophetic, priestly, royal mission, but according to one’s own vocation. This is implemented differently by laymen and priests. From the moment of baptism. We are part of the Church and bear responsibility for it. However, it seems that in the daily life of the Church there is no shortage of situations when priests enter areas of involvement that would be more in line with the vocation of the laity, on the other hand there is no shortage of tendencies among the laity to take over what is typical of priestly ministry. However, the decisive voice belongs to the hierarchy, including when it comes to the Church’s mission, although there are more and more signs of the laity’s lively involvement in this area. The laity note that “there is a need for the clergy to share the broad responsibility for the Church with the laity. This applies to many dimensions. It should be noted that this is a matter of actual responsibility, not just temporary assignment of specific tasks.” “Characteristically, however, there is no or only negligible participation in the life of the Church on a level other than the parish. Only a few, and often unsystematically, participate decisively in wider church events. Those involved also often lack the competence, which is the result of, studies, courses, formation for independent, appropriate leadership of the parish groups entrusted to them.” And those who are competent often lack courage or conformism prevails.
In the statements, there is also, the conviction that it is the unchanging teaching of the Church “outside of which there is no salvation” that is the basis for the dialogue and cooperation conducted. The Church is to be open to all, but it must not change the teachings of Christ, it is to seek ways to be present in the world, to respond to current problems, but with the preservation of its identity, without conforming to the world. Hence, there were fears and doubts that this form of conducting the synod would not be used to legalize the distortions associated with the German synodal way.
The syntheses highlight several possible levels of cooperation between the laity and clergy. This will include culture. The cooperation will be to inspire it with faith. Taking into account modern trends, the commitment to creating valuable and full of Catholic content computer games, books, films for children is particularly emphasized, so that parents can thus transmit Christian values to the younger generation. This points to another level of cooperation, which is education and formation. The parish environment, of which, after all, laymen, who are often very competent, are an important part, can support parents in the process of shaping the younger generation. Specially conducted preparations for the sacraments (baptism, Holy Communion, confirmation, confession, marriage) will contribute to this. But it’s also about creating and leading communities, formation groups (altar boys, schola, volunteer or other) that will support the development and maturation process. Adults can also be targeted for such activities. Indeed, there is a great need for catechesis not only for children, but also for adults, who in their religious formation often remain at the level of the first grades of elementary school. An area of such large-scale cooperation is already school catechesis.
Children and adolescents are among the many environments, in addition to the planes, cooperation and involvement of the laity and clergy. The syntheses also point to the need to integrate the various communities operating in the reality of the parish, to undertake joint activities, initiatives, works of evangelization – reaching out to other faithful, especially those standing a little further away. They are also people who have left the Church or are “standing in the doorway” and hesitating. There is no shortage of neglected areas of mission: young married couples, working singles, single people, the sick, non-sacramental relationships, broken families, addicts, the lost in life, prisoners, people in nursing homes or hospitals.
Responsibility for human salvation demands cooperation wherever possible. This will be manifested, for example, in undertaking cooperation with secular structures or organizations, as well as the extensive provision and use of church infrastructure.
Among the methods of influence, one of the most important is witnessing with one’s life at work, at home, in the environment that he is a baptized person and a missionary. Many laymen are involved in the life of the parish through good advice, professional counsel and prayer. The irreplaceable material assistance cannot be silent either. The role of priests vis-à-vis such laymen will be to guide them spiritually and support them in their mission to fearlessly go out to the other. They are to form the laity to take responsibility for the Church. In turn, the church should be a community where they can draw spiritual strength for such involvement. Priests, too, require formation for mature and skillful cooperation with the laity. And both clergy and laity should ensure that the Church is seen as a community, not a market with a price tag and a commodity in the form of sacraments. It seems that a certain threat to the cooperation described here may be the spreading phenomenon of “churching,” that is, a kind of search combined with wandering from church to church, inspired by various motives, such as satisfying curiosity about what it is like elsewhere, but also following “leaders” (sometimes including clergy) who do not always teach Christ’s Gospel.
Participants in the meetings were almost unanimous in stating that such meetings can lead us to openness to others, to the formation of authentic synodality in the reality of the Church, especially local. At the same time, one could feel their great attachment to tradition and fear of introducing changes, which are being promoted in the West. An effective platform for creating cooperation and co-responsibility between priests and laymen will always remain pastoral councils or similar structures, and cooperation between groups involving the exchange of ideas, views and the involvement of members of different groups in joint practical action councils of movements.
4. DISCERNMENT AND DECISION-MAKING
A parish is a community whose guide, shepherd is always the pastor. He has the main responsibility for helping the faithful on their way to God. The faithful he leads are also the subject of this responsibility, they are an active part of this community. Therefore, it is necessary to cooperate in the implementation of tasks specific to the entire community, tasks both spiritual and material. Members of the synod groups point out that the parish first needs space to discern the Lord’s will, that is, to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants. Certainly, personal or community prayer and meditation on the Word of God, the inclusion of communities/associations and priests in this prayer; openness to the Holy Spirit will help in such discernment. As emphasized, all decisions to be made in accordance with God’s will must be entrusted to God. Next, it is advisable that, the pastor consults his plans for the functioning of the parish community at least with its representatives. Participants in the synodal path note the still great distrust of priests towards the laity in pastoral as well as material matters, forgetting that these laymen are often even specialists in the issues at hand. Therefore, they call for greater openness on the part of the clergy and trust in the lay faithful, especially since their competence is further supported by a living faith and ecclesial outlook. The plane of cooperation is the pastoral and economic councils and other bodies with similar goals. You may especially want to include leaders or representatives of parish groups. Repeatedly repeated was the demand that in such bodies there should also be a place for representatives of youth and that they too should have an influence, along with other laymen, on the shape of pastoral programs and other activities undertaken mainly with the young in mind. The syntheses show that even where such action is taken, often the broader circles of the faithful are not aware of it. The laity lament the lack of joint meetings between catechists, community leaders and priests for pastoral dialogue and guiding pastoral and evangelization efforts. They emphasize the need to build relationships and unity at the level of the pastor – parish priests – communities in the Church – parishioners.
There is also a lack of clear information on how certain decision-making processes are carried out. At other times, it is pointed out that the lay faithful are kept informed of actions taken, while this does not translate into any decision-making. Often specific information penetrates only certain parish groups. Even if such organizations as pastoral or economic councils are in place, many times there is no information about the ways or fruits of their activities, no possibility of evaluation.
A very important and sensitive issue is always the financial issues of parish operation. Many times it is with them that the “authority” in the parish is identified. The syntheses note that, increasingly, “the pastor reports to the community once a year on the activities, also presenting accounts of the funds raised in the activities, and informs about the intentions and implementation of the various goals.” However, this is not yet a common practice. The faithful would expect more transparency in financial matters, clear information on “what the Church does for a living.” They point out that it is more important to be vigilant about the quality of the management of the material tasks entrusted to the Church. Provide assistance if needed, but also enforce these tasks.
As if to conclude, they point out that true power, is control over what we do, what we think and how we relate to others.
The diocesan coordinator of the Synod – Fr. Piotr Walkiewicz
Rev. Damian Foltyn
Summaries of the synodal process in other dioceses, parishes and the perspective of participants in synodal meetings
Diecezja gliwicka obchodzi w tym roku 30. rocznicę istnienia (bulla Jana Pawła II Totus Tuus Poloniae populus – 25 marca 1992). Diecezjalny etap drogi synodalnej jest okazją do słuchania i dialogu na poziomie lokalnym – diecezjalnym. Zgodnie z Vademecum synteza jest aktem rozeznania i wkładem w następny etap procesu synodalnego: „W tym sensie synteza nie tylko informuje o wspólnych tendencjach i punktach zbieżnych, ale także uwypukla te punkty, które trafiają w sedno, inspirują oryginalny punkt widzenia lub otwierają nowy horyzont”.
Jaworzańska synodalność, czyli sensus fidelium (zmysł wiary) w praktyce
W marcu br. zakończył się parafialny etap prac w ramach drogi synodalnej. W trakcie bardzo krótkiego czasu odbyło się w naszej parafii łącznie 6 spotkań, podczas których przedmiotem refleksji były następujące zagadnienia synodalne: „Dialog w Kościele i społeczeństwie”, „Słuchanie”, „Formowanie się w synodalności”, „Zabieranie głosu”, „Towarzysze podróży”, „Rozeznawanie i podejmowanie decyzji” oraz „Współodpowiedzialni”. W spotkaniach ogólnych, do udziału w których zaproszeni zostali wszyscy parafianie, uczestniczyli również przedstawiciele poszczególnych wspólnot parafialnych. W wyniku wspólnych rozważań zagadnień synodalnych zrodziły się następujące marzenia i pragnienia podążania przez Kościół drogą autentycznego wzrastania w wierze:
Postanowiłam brać udział w spotkaniach synodalnych, gdyż uważam, że to ważne i wyjątkowe wydarzenie w historii Kościoła, w którym mogę uczestniczyć.
Podczas spotkań nawiązałam nowe znajomości z członkami Kościoła miałam okazję wysłuchać ich zdania na różne tematy, ważna była dla mnie dyskusja i wymiana poglądów. Ks. Rafał w ciekawy sposób przedstawiał historię Kościoła, podczas omawiania fragmentów Ewangelii, bardzo fajnie także komentował te fragmenty.
O synodzie pierwszy raz usłyszałem w październiku ubiegłego roku i już wtedy, nie do końca świadomy o co w nim jeszcze chodzi, wziąłem udział w spotkaniach synodalnych organizowanych w ramach spotkań liderów grup ruchu Mężczyźni św. Józefa. Niedługo potem, zostałem poproszony o organizację takich spotkań przez ks. Proboszcza własnej parafii. Organizacja spotkań wymusiła głębsze poznanie tematu i odkrycie tego, jak bardzo rozpoczęty synod jest potrzebny Kościołowi.