Discernment and decision-making
On the synodal path, we make decisions by discerning what the Holy Spirit is saying through our entire community.
How do we understand that the Church is hierarchical and not democratic? Do we see a place for the collective discernment and decision-making of all of God’s people together with the pastors in such an organized church? How can we grow in community spiritual discernment?
Wszystkie syntezy w jednym dokumencie PDF
POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY
The Synod confirmed that we respect and value hierarchical authority in the Church. We believe that decisions in the Church should be made by those who are called to do so, and they should take responsibility for them. The faithful understand and do not question the role that the Pope, the bishops and all the clergy play in the Church. We pay our respects to those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders or the gift of consecrated life. We do not want to take over the authority of bishops and presbyters. On the contrary: we want to have confidence in them and treat them as shepherds. We feel responsible for them. We are aware of the need to support our shepherds with prayer, as their mission is not easy.
Power is not only a responsibility, but above all a service. Authority, responsibility and service must be formed by love. This applies to all levels of the hierarchy – bishops, pastors, priests, deacons. This also applies to consecrated persons. Authority in the Church is there to serve the mission of the Church first and foremost. “We ourselves, our beliefs and life choices, are the fruit of the Church’s mission.” Power also requires trust, which is born of credibility. That’s why we would like to have authentic shepherds around us, living their faith and making it known that they are growing spiritually. We expect a clear lead from them. Especially today, in difficult times of relativization of values and multiplicity of media messages, we expect a concrete voice of the bishops and a coherent episcopal position.
The contact between shepherds and the faithful is extremely important. We expect “bishops to be closer to ordinary people to talk to, because in the current form only a select few have access to the bishop.” And unfortunately there is a lack of Bishops’ contact with the faithful. We complain that the bishop “during the canonical visitation is limited to a formal meeting with the pastoral council and a narrow representation of parish groups, almost always under the watchful eye of the pastor.” In the statements of participants in the meetings, both clergy and laity, there was an image of an aloof bishop – an official, uninterested in parish affairs, “detached from reality” and the problems lived by the faithful and parish communities.
We lack contact between the curia and the priests in the parishes. We see “a low level of mutual trust, a poor flow of information between the curia and parishes, and a lack of dialogue between the bishop and the presbyters and laity.” We are aggravated that “many times priests do not respect the bishop’s decision.” Clergy and church structures often follow the logic of “top-down planning.” “Matters of spiritual life are determined and suggested by the primates, diocesan programs. Pastors most often accept this, taking the appointed, planned and ready actions, thus absolving themselves of invention. This sometimes leads to situations in which these activities do not match the specific local reality or are unable to induce the intended ‘upfront’ effects.” “The Church is dominated by an anachronistic one-way communication model,” and we demand a “culture[y] of feedback.”
We have a slightly different perception of authority and responsibility at the parish level. We can give very many examples of fruitful cooperation Parish pastors and lay people. We tend to perceive pastors as open-minded and engaged people “to talk to.” However, the model of parish leadership often does not suit us, especially the “priest’s dominant role in everything.” “It is accepted that the parish belongs to the parish priest, and he is the one who makes all decisions.” Here one can clearly see the difference in the understanding of responsibility for the parish. The laity understands it primarily as a responsibility for another human being. Priests, on the other hand, and especially pastors, often prioritize their responsibility for the church (the broader parish economy) over their responsibility for the Church writ large. As a result, delegating the laity to various tasks, from economic to organizational or evangelization, comes with great difficulty to most priests – especially pastors.
This gives rise to a desire to better arrange mutual cooperation between laymen and priests. We have already learned that we need greater synodality, so that unity, respect and co-responsibility of clergy and laity grow in the Church, so that the subjectivity of all the baptized becomes more evident. During the synod, it became clear that there are many places in Poland where the faithful are ready to take responsibility for the parish. However, there are also communities where parishioners are not mentally prepared for this or simply do not want to take joint responsibility for some parish issues. This often turns into an attitude of The passivity of the faithful and the “consumer-service” approach to the community. “In the consciousness of the faithful, the one who has power has everything. Power is ceded to the clergy, possibly to a few lay people working with them. All forms of involvement and active participation are attributed to the authorities, while the faithful adopt the attitude of passive participants.” This “consumerist” approach to the Church is so entrenched that various incentives for shared responsibility are not working.
Parish councils, both pastoral and economic, by the way, very often indistinguishable from each other, were a topic discussed at the synod. “In order to grow in common spiritual discernment, it is necessary, first of all, to revitalize already existing synodal structures in the Church, such as parish councils, which are often “a sham,” i.e., the “parish councils. exist only on paper and have no concrete contribution to the life of the parish or diocese, or are not appointed at all. They should be more effective, look for new ways to listen to everyone’s voice.” We see the lack of parish councils as a clear message “that parish priests do not want advice from lay people, who often have a better idea of finances.” It seems to us that the councils should include people who are active in the life of the parish community, including people from the periphery who can bring something new to parish ministry with their critical voice. We also lack a “female perspective” in parish councils. Often laymen have better training in economics and finance than clergy. “In the synod’s conclusions, there is a demand that pastors respect greater autonomy during the work of parish councils in the scope of their activities. Sometimes, instead of a substantive discussion during meetings with parish councils, there is a statement by the parish priest: “Because I order it that way.”
We consider the practical aspect of authority and responsibility in the Church to be financial issues. In our opinion, there is a lack of transparency in this area. Here we see the peculiarities of the Church in Poland, which subsists on the sacrifices of the faithful. In many countries the matter is more transparent, for example, the faithful pay a tax. However, during the consultations, we repeatedly expressed our belief that the Polish funding model is more favorable because of the educational dimension. This is because it teaches to love, to share what God gives, or to see material goods as means to salvation. Such a model, however, requires financial transparency all the more. An additional issue that, according to many, negatively affects our parishes is the so-called “”parish”. Price lists, i.e., the introduction of designated fees for the sacraments.
– Decisions are made in the spirit of love for each person, and that should be the most important thing. We can strive to ensure that decisions are conducive to building unity.
– The best form is discussion in the spirit of love and respect. Its main goal should be to recognize that every voice in the conversation has equal weight and each is worth leaning on. All the while, it is also important to remember what the purpose of the conversation is. We should focus on arguments, not emotions. Then there is a chance that we will properly discern the problem and draw conclusions for building a new and better reality.
– Decisions should be made on the basis of discernment in a particular situation, conversations with people, maybe surveys, but above all through prayer to the Holy Spirit. Consultations usually work well with smaller groups of people, unless something is very important and requires wide-ranging meetings.
– Anyone wishing to do so can meet with a priest, if only at the parish office, get advice, share their problem and, after a conversation, better discern the matter and make the right decision. Meetings with a spiritual director are also very helpful. Here, discernment is primarily concerned with matters of spiritual life.
– Without starting with spiritual formation, it is impossible to talk about discernment. First, it is necessary to mature and desire to subject the decision to discernment based primarily on the greater good. Without proper formation and development, people are inclined to make decisions according to their comforts, imaginations and plans.
– By learning about the richness of the traditions of other churches, listening to more voices.
– Preferably through more conversations, especially with laymen, who nevertheless have a different perspective on daily life than the clergy and can advise in a more practical way. Undoubtedly, prayer should also come first, especially during the Eucharist, adoration, praying rosaries together. The faithful want even more contact with priests. Here, the lack of time with clergy people can be a hindrance. A good solution to relieve the burden on priests would be a lay person, a kind of manager, who would take care of the parish’s economy.
– Greater accountability for the groups entrusted to them (high and frequent turnover of pastoral caregivers is not conducive to cementing and developing the community)
– By better selection of a “representative group.” When it comes to the synod, discussions must include different social groups, ages, with different views. There must be people who are missing from the church: Those who feel excluded, those who have left the church, those who claim to believe but want nothing to do with the church. If we care about those who are missing, they should be heard first and foremost.
– Speak in communities, during parish announcements to the wider Church community about such needs noticed by Priests, or ask the faithful whether they notice such needs. You can’t improve something that is lacking. So let’s start announcing that this is a possibility.
– Every parish should have a pastoral council. The decision-making process should be synodal, where you sit down and talk about the problems of the parish, where the council has insight, among other things. into parish finances, which affects the transparency of parish operations. The role of the parish council should also boil down to advising the pastor and helping him achieve some jointly decided goals. And most importantly, it should be composed of members not only nominated by pastors (people favorable to the pastor).
1.1.3 How do we cultivate participation in decision-making within hierarchically organized communities?
– In hierarchical communities, the “head” has the decisive vote , but before this happens it is very useful to listen to the voice of its members, to gather opinions in order to make the best possible decision more confidently having a broader view of the situation.
– Within the parish, the deciding vote belongs to the parish priest.
– Communities through their leaders have the opportunity to communicate their needs or make comments. These requests are always listened to, considered, and even when the decision is negative-the reasons are always explained.
– As something is hierarchically structured, it takes a great deal of work and commitment to prove to an individual that he or she has a stake in decision-making. This requires encouraging consultation, conversation and making your point.
– Hierarchy in the Church is indispensable. However, the faithful should be informed of the intentions, which gives a sense of participation in the decisions made.
1.1.4 How do we articulate the consultative phase with that ofdecision-making, the process of arriving at a decision(decision-making) with the moment ofdecision-making(decision-taking)?
– My impression is that the consultation phase can have very little impact on the decision-making phase. It is done only to create the appearance that the faithful have something to say and that their opinion will be taken into account by someone
– The time to arrive at a decision should be a time to gather information from various angles so that the view of the situation is as complete as possible. It should always be guided by the right goal, which is the greater good we want to pursue. Having the necessary information, undergoing discernment through prayer, having inner peace and certainty as much as possible, the moment of decision-making occurs. Sometimes, however, in extreme situations due to lack of time, we may be forced, as it were, to make a quick decision, in which case it is also important that the desire to do good is the guiding goal.
– In each phase (from the idea to the decision to implement it or not), parishioners have a say. The parish priest, through parish announcements, presents issues, tasks to be carried out, he also uses community meetings, parish council, individual meetings to present proposals or hear proposals and through the same route communicates the decision made together with the parish council.
– If a member of the hierarchical community feels that he or she is taking part, is responsible, has an influence on some decision, then he or she must be informed about the progress of the work, about the proposals and decisions being prepared, and about their adoption. Everything should be clear and transparent, so that there is no feeling that everything was predetermined, and the discussions and work did not affect the decisions made.
– The parish priest’s decisions are most often consulted with other clergy and the Parish Council. As for the faithful, they get acquainted with them during parish announcements, which are read at the end of Mass. and posted on the parish website and on the parish’s Facebook page. Every year, Fr. The pastor in our parish reads the annual financial report on the parish during the announcements.
– Promotion of the transparency of the initiatives being carried out is done through announcements available on the Internet, the bulletin board at the church and during the readings at the end of Mass. However, the possibility of any accountability of decision-makers, i.e., the pastor, is placed in the hands of the church superior, i.e., the pastor. Archbishop.
– I hope that the synodal conclusions will be presented for review by all interested parties after the passage of each hierarchical level. Just as I have the opportunity to learn about parish applications, I also hope to learn about applications at the diocesan and national levels.
– There are no such instruments, other than summaries of individually undertaken actions by the parish leader himself during parish announcements. There is not always information about on what basis the decisions were made, where their source is. So accountability and transparency is already limited at this level.
Dialogue in the community is based on mutual listening, discernment, “creative acceptance of criticism.” The role of the leader, who discerns, directs, collaborates with community members, is important. Every parishioner has the right to voice his or her opinion on an issue (either in person, in a conversation or by writing to the parish’s online address), or through a councilor. All opinions, including those with which we disagree, should be heard.
Everyone who cares about the well-being of the Church must be heard when making decisions. It is good to consult decisions with community members. Everyone has the right to speak out. We discern and make decisions in prayer.
In most parishes, Priests try to listen to the voice of the faithful. Final decisions are made by voting or taken independently by the priests. The implementation of a specific pastoral or economic action is announced to the faithful, emphasizing that it is a joint decision of priests and lay representatives of the parish.
The synod’s conclusions call for pastors to respect greater autonomy during the work of parish councils in their areas of operation. Sometimes, instead of a substantive discussion during meetings with parish councils, there is a statement by the parish priest: “because I order it that way.”
Around the five themes identified, it is necessary to highlight some common issues “resonating” in our diocese. The selection of original statements (comments) of meeting participants – as suggested by the ISKK – is subjective, but consulted/discussed within the team of diocesan coordinators and other collaborators:
Here are comments on the process of discernment and decision-making in the parish community:
“All (important) decisions are made by the Pastor (…). At the chancellery and after Masses. you can always talk. In addition, in matters of importance, the pastor is always available (…) Those involved see no obstacles (in communication between the priest and the laity jk), especially in our parish. Others may feel distanced, in the minds of the faithful the priest is placed higher. The obstacle may be the inadequate life of a layman and hence the lack of courage to turn to a priest. Besides, there are prejudices, stereotypes, just like in human communication. Especially among the young, there is resistance from a peer or other group.”
“The basic communication problem is the lack of a common language due to distance. The experience of the lives and problems of lay parishioners does not match the experience of pastoralists, which gives rise to a mass of small and large misunderstandings. This incompatibility is primarily due to a lack of knowledge (laymen do not understand the way of life specific to priests, they have a false image of the Church, and again priests often have a misconception about family life. Communication is also not facilitated by the lack of theological formation of parishioners, for whom the decisions of pastors in many areas are sometimes incomprehensible. Another obstacle to communication between priests and parishioners is the fact that pastors, by virtue of their duties, function primarily in the area of the rectory, church and school, which narrows the meeting space and makes them little visible on the parish grounds. The smaller this space of reaching out to each other (this applies to both sides, after all, only some of the parishioners also frequent the temple), the more distrust, fear and sometimes hostility appears in mutual relations. Similar feelings and communication problems are not shared by those parishioners whose contact with pastors is based on a personal relationship, getting to know the family, visits and conversations. However, this is often a product of character traits (both of individual parishioners and priests), rather than structural or organizational solutions that would create and strengthen such relationships at the parish level.”
Also relevant was the question: what impact does social media have on the lives of parishioners?
“Our youngest parishioners naturally function online, and a parish Facebook page has been created for them, with a lay person entrusted to run it. Its function is to inform-remind about parish events. A full overview of current information from the life of the parish can be found on the website, which is regularly visited by middle-aged parishioners. On the other hand, a smartphone app has yet been developed for both, which is an intermediate version between a tool for communicating with priests and the Parish Council and a handy parish guide.”
“(…) The media are an essential element in the identity and way of life of the young, technology can be harmful to human dignity if it is not used in accordance with conscience and prudence, and when using it one forgets about the human being; the media have a huge impact – for people of good will it brings a lot of good; one can check Mass intentions on the Internet, one can raise an interesting topic on the Internet or praise or criticize something (…) The synodal meeting made it possible for laity and clergy to look at problems from different points of view and reflect together on their solution.”
“Always ask the Holy Spirit what Jesus expects of you in every moment of your life and in every decision you have to make in order to discern the place an issue has in your own mission. And let Him shape in you these personal mysteries that reflect Jesus Christ in the modern world.” (Gaudete et exultate 23)
According to participants in the synod meetings, the practice of decision-making in the Church is far from ideal. The most common theme in the statements was the image of the Church as an “ossified, cold institution” or “corporation” shackled by “bureaucratic procedures,” “opaque” and far from the image of a living Church making decisions in obedience to the Holy Spirit. In such a Church, there is no de facto place for discernment and working out decisions, as everything goes on according to the “ordinances of the institution.” Despite the negative perception of the decision-making process, the changes observed in the Church (including openness to others and the ability to work out compromises) were appreciated. It was stressed that a sore point or obstacle in the co-determination process is the bureaucratization of pastoral activities and the primacy of material and official matters over spiritual ones. There has been repeated criticism of decisions made by church superiors during the pandemic (closing churches, introducing the reception of Holy Communion on the hand). As well as the lack of adequate explanation for such decisions. Another problem pointed out in the statements was the lack of transparency and “tardiness in explaining church scandals,” the weak role of lay people in parishes/dioceses based on the belief that lay people are not decision makers in church affairs. Simplification of the bureaucracy, opening up to the involvement of the laity in the management of the Church by giving them responsibility for financial or construction matters, for example, have been identified as prescriptions for the above problems. The need to define the Church’s problems was also pointed out. This form of self-diagnosis would be the beginning of the decision-making process.
Discernment should always be done in the context of prayer. It is a special appeal to the Holy Spirit for His guidance, light and inspiration. One should also refer to Scripture, the Decalogue, the K.K.K., authorities (one can always consult a priest or spiritual director, in whom the faithful should have confidence) and abide in sanctifying grace. The Church, by the will of Jesus, is hierarchical, not democratic. Church members have the opportunity to dialogue, make comments, among other things, through organized synods, congresses, meetings and conferences at various levels of the Church community. The faithful noted that the parish and economic council as an advisory body is the right place to discern situations and build relationships among believers. Attention was also paid to parish groups, where a common vision of pastoral actions must be born in prayer and in humble evaluation of one’s own opinion, without ascribing infallibility to it and elevating it above the opinion of others. After listening to the opinion of the faithful, the person in charge (parish priest or supervisor) makes a decision that everyone should accept and commit to. The joint search for the best solutions, of course, must not encroach on the Church’s teaching competence in the area of faith and morals. The Church should address these topics and necessary actions related to the current situation in the country and the world.
Life shows that during consultations, conflicting opinions and visions of the Church emerge, which would cater to the expectations of the faithful that are incompatible with traditional teaching. Therefore, every parish group should undergo Catholic formation. Hence, necessary for its correct development is the assistance of a pastor who has theological, religious and social knowledge. It is important that, on the one hand, he should be open-minded, willing to listen to the faithful and reckon with their evaluation and opinion, but on the other hand, he should be faithful to the Church’s teaching and not try to falsely please those under his care. Hierarchicality is that we all serve a common cause, but have different tasks to perform. In decision-making, the composition of the group and the leader are of great importance, as well as the commitment to action or lack thereof. Before the decision-making phase, there should be an assignment of roles, a plan of action, and then overseeing them. The parish, as a community of people endowed with various gifts, should strive to discover people in its community whose skills can serve the common good. Therefore, it is important to involve the laity and their active participation in the life of the Church. It awakens a sense of responsibility for the community. Opening churches would increase their accessibility to make them a place for the quiet prayer of the faithful in each parish and thus create a boost in the religiosity of parishioners. Attention was paid to the need for openness in parish activities, i.e. announcing from the pulpit financial assumptions, plans, possible difficulties in their implementation, and then reporting on the tasks performed. The parishes’ financial books and a statement of parish accounts are available for review. This makes it easier to verify the actions taken and account for them.
Here is an attempt to synthesize the submitted votes by subject criterion.
1.1.1 In your parish, what is the relationship between consultation and decision-making (administrative, economic, pastoral), and how is this implemented in practice?
Pastoral decisions are made by pastors, but in many cases they are open to suggestions or requests from parishioners. Economic decisions are usually consulted with the pastoral council and to it the pastor reports on their implementation, especially when it comes to difficult or unusual ventures.
The transparency mechanism is created, among other things. through the pastor’s consultation with the pastoral council, as well as through the work of an accountant who prepares an annual financial report [duża parafia miejska].
Many also point out that in such matters pastors seek the advice of the bishop or other experienced priests. An opportunity to consult widely on some project with the general parishioners is, of course, a pastoral visit.
In our small parish, consultation and decision-making (acceptance, correction or rejection) sometimes takes place in church, during announcements, with the participation of all present, in the manner of a general meeting.
1.1.2 What procedures and tools are in place in the parish to promote transparency and reviewability of decisions made?
Parish council meetings, the minutes of which are taken, and decisions made at the meeting are communicated to the entire community in the form of announcements. In many parishes, accounts and detailed valuations of investments are presented to the pastoral council. The planned activities and their costs are usually presented during Sunday pastoral announcements or in the parish newspaper. At the end of the year, many parish priests stop to report to parishioners on the spiritual and material situation of the parish.
When a parish decided on a large loan, council members had to give their approval with their signature. It is clear that control is exercised by the curia and every five years the economic condition is reviewed.
Parish councillors can ask for insight into ongoing pastoral and material work in the parish. Receive an annual report on the work undertaken jointly in the calendar year.
Symptomatically, the last three topics included in the main question: How do I understand my participation in decision-making and responsibility in the Church? were presented by meeting participants in the most synthetic way. It is important to point out here that there is a very high degree of consistency among the voices with regard to the vision of power. The dominant and, in principle, common voice was the recognition of the hierarchical nature of authority in the Church, thereby unanimously rejecting the concept of democracy in this sense. At the same time, such a picture of authority is combined with a concrete vision of it: The Church is hierarchical and should remain so. Decisions should be made by those who are predisposed to do so and they should take responsibility for them. But authority is not only about responsibility, it is also about serving humanity. Authority, responsibility and service must be formed by love. This applies to all levels of the hierarchy from the bishop to pastors and priests. The laity do not want to take over the competence of bishops and presbyters – on the contrary, they want to have confidence in them and treat them as shepherds. This trust is built through the credibility of the shepherds – their authenticity, their witness to the faith and their ongoing formation, noticed by the faithful. The laity also feel responsible for them in the dimension of prayer support, realizing the difficulty of their mission. At the same time, they expect power to be realized through service. An important recurring theme was the expectation of a clear message. Especially today, in times of difficult experiences, relativized values and various media messages, the laity expect a concrete voice from the bishops and a consistent episcopal position, and want to feel that they are being guided in responsibility and love. Another problem is that, unfortunately, one often gets the impression that bishops (but also priests) do not know the daily life and real problems of the people (livelihood, environmental, spiritual) – they speak an unintelligible, hermetic language. A problem often pointed out is that many times priests do not respect the bishop’s decisions, and the laity see this and perceive it as bitter: “I hear about those parishes where there are so many different communities, and in ours there is nothing, neither communities nor read letters – I don’t understand this, because after all, there is obedience, and if the bishop writes a letter, and in ours it is not read, I internally rebel.” This is an example of very common statements.
There is a slightly different view of authority and responsibility at the parish level, where, while the pastor, as shepherd, has responsibility for his community, he is not necessarily the leader in all activities. Here one can clearly see the difference in the understanding of responsibility for the parish: laymen understand it as primarily a responsibility for another human being, while priests, especially pastors, often prioritize responsibility for the church (the parish household in the broadest sense) over responsibility for the Church writ large. As a result, delegating tasks ranging from economic to organizational or evangelization to the laity comes with great difficulty to most priests – especially pastors. This is well illustrated by the following reflection: “Many of us laity have a strong need to be co-responsible for the Church, we want to experience that we have the same dignity and value as the clergy, although our tasks are different. In addition, we want to experience the joy of serving, co-creating, using our gifts and skills. However, our ability to act depends on the goodwill, or lack thereof, of the clergy. A large number of lay faithful are characterized not only by a lack of internal formation, but basic religious knowledge. It is not surprising, then, that many clergy lack good experiences of working with the laity, and it can be quite easy for them to develop a tendency to treat us ‘down’. Many of the communities or movements do not prepare the laity to be preachers of the Good News, do not show what the kerygma is and do not teach how to share the faith. The Polish Church rarely treats the laity as partners in evangelization. And yet it is we, the laity, who are the ‘soldiers on the front line’ in the fight for this world. We are not taken seriously. We are also not given any real influence over the operation of the parish.”
On the other hand, there is a very strong reflection that the laity are not mentally prepared or simply do not want to take co-responsibility for the parish and prefer to remain passive . “We can participate in taking responsibility, and if we accept a task then we must be consistent in it and do what we commit ourselves to,” he said. This requires a barrier to be broken by the laity – to get involved – and from priests – to allow the laity to share responsibility in, for example, parish councils or economic councils.” “Not too much lay people want to get into parish councils and economic councils, they don’t have the time, they don’t want to be responsible for decisions, they don’t want to get into parish affairs in so much detail, and most often they think that the parish priest knows best anyway and may not want to listen to them in making decisions.” Thus, most of us have learned real shared responsibility.
The syntheses show how few lay people are ready to take co-responsibility for their parish. This, of course, is not just a responsibility for material matters, but also a responsibility for evangelization – the transmission of the faith – catechesis, and charity. This is certainly a generational habit, a kind of clericalism of lay people accustomed to shifting all responsibility to priests. Priests, on the other hand, inundated with the number of demands, often treat the legitimate demands of the laity as a passive and demanding attitude. Perhaps the lack of dialogue and community, in which parishioners and their clergy are one, is apparent here.
Below is an aggregate compilation of the collected voices in the key of the ten synodal issues. All statements were taken from the reports, emails and other voices presented, then reworked and adapted for this report. Each issue is preceded by a brief, general philosophical-theological-pastoral reflection, after which specific indications (conclusions) are written for further work in the synodal process in the Diocese of Plock, that is, steps to be taken in what has been discerned as the voice of the Holy Spirit.
In the face of various crises, a “new humanistic synthesis” is needed, rethinking and constructing new projects, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Caritas in veritate (Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical “Caritas in veritate,” Vatican 2009, No. 21). At the level of many deaneries, synodality and discernment are manifested in the team approach of priests in solving current pastoral issues, jointly determining activities in cities and districts, exchanging experiences, mutual sacramental service. The organization of catechetical conferences in parishes, regular meetings of groups and associations, discussions and other occasions where listening and discerning the needs and challenges of the parish community takes place should be appreciated. It was pointed out that the role of senior priests, who are a living source of knowledge and good pastoral insights, whose voice should be more willingly and frequently heard and heeded, is not sufficiently appreciated. As the diocese stands today, they make up almost a quarter of the Plock presbytery.
- Too little reflection is undertaken at the parish, deanery and diocesan levels on the effectiveness of the activities carried out. A more detailed evaluation of the goals could result in a better selection of specific people and activities in ministry.
- Among the important factors of discernment, the following were repeatedly pointed out: living in truth, freeing oneself from frames and thought patterns, emotional stability, the influence of others, the help of competent people, the participation of the parish, deanery and diocesan community, pointing to the voice of authorities and masters.
- An extremely important time of discernment is adolescence, when girls and boys need the special accompaniment of educators, catechists and priests. This should not be neglected, especially for Confirmation candidates and high school students.
- The time and community of discernment are the religious novitiates and seminaries. The Plock Theological Seminary has been a space for learning about the Church and discerning vocations for 428 years. In addition to its educational function, it is important to remember its ever-present huge role in the permanent formation of Płock presbyters, as well as its value for the exploration of research and popularization of the study of philosophy and theology. The existence of the seminary is not only a matter of concern for vocations, but also for shaping the identity of the diocese.
- Individual forms of consecrated life – virgins and consecrated widows, which may be a sure answer to the current crisis of vocations to traditional religious communities – receive too little attention in the Church.
- It also underscored the danger of an exalted approach to religion and prayer practices, appealing only to feelings and emotions and relying little on the rational view of faith characteristic of the Catholic outlook. Proper discernment in daily life cannot be based on illusory intuition alone; it requires two wings: faith and reason, in light of which the challenges of Christian life can be met with greater courage.
The syntheses contain very many examples of fruitful cooperation between clergy and laity, especially at the local level. Many parish priests are seen by their parishioners as open and engaged people “to talk to.” Although the model of parish leadership is most often classic: “Dominating in everything is the role of the priest,” “It is accepted that the parish belongs to the parish priest, and it is he who makes all decisions.” The Synod participants further stressed that authority in the Church, like all of its activities, primarily serves the Church’s mission, which is eternal salvation: “We ourselves, our beliefs and life choices, are the fruit of the Church’s mission.” They understand and do not undermine the role that the Pope, the bishops and all the clergy play in the Church. They express respect to those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders or the gift of consecrated life.
Synodal syntheses include the desire to better arrange mutual cooperation, so that through greater synodality in the Church, unity, respect and shared responsibility between clergy and laity will grow. So that the subjectivity of all the baptized becomes more apparent. For a notable majority of members of synod groups, participation in this Synod was “the first experience of having a real influence on decisions in the Church.”
Almost all Synod participants expressed the view that “an anachronistic model of one-way communication prevails in the Church” and that a “culture of feedback” is needed. In their view, there is a lack of transparency in the area of finances and in the activities of parish councils, and the power of the clergy is often abused: “as a rule, the layman always comes to ask.”
The majority of Synod participants stressed that shared responsibility and serious discernment of what is good for the Church will only be possible if the Church authority completely frees itself from “withholding information, withholding facts, not saying straightforwardly what is happening in the Church, and not giving specific information about crimes in the Church,” “Too often the information provided by the Church hierarchy on difficult topics is too vague.”
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.
1.1.1 In synodal style, decisions are made on the basis of common discernment, flowing from a common obedience to the Holy Spirit
Diocesans noted that in decision-making in “our Church”, community prayer (lay and clergy) is invariably important and always needed; decisions made are worth explaining, commenting on later. Practical implementation of this task can be done through representatives on the Parish/Diocesan Council. The fact is, as expressed by participants in the synodal consultations, that the Church’s decision-making methods are unlikely to help listen to the laity: most often, decisions are made without their participation. As a result, laymen do not feel responsible for the consequences of decisions. As noted, the procedures in this regard are worth making more transparent and generally understandable, such as how Parish Councils are elected; leaders of pastoral groups; financial transparency of parishes. In transparency, humility and courage are needed. To the question: how can we together (laity and priests), participate in spiritual discernment? answered: when we listen to each other, when we talk (sincerely and humbly), when we pray together willingly; when we experience days of recollection, retreats, conferences, adorations together; when we go on pilgrimage together, then there is a chance that “we will be of one heart and one spirit.”
Discernment involves listening carefully to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Authentic discernment is possible where there is time for deep reflection and a spirit of mutual trust, one faith and common purpose. It is worth remembering that there can be no discernment if we remain closed to the Word of God. Another element of discernment is love as a value for building. Discernment should involve the whole person and be the work of the Holy Spirit.
In many cases, work in synodal groups has resulted in a greater awareness among the faithful of their role in the Church. Problems in various parishes and communities that prevent the decision-making process from being synodal were highlighted. Many people shared their feelings that they were not sure that the Holy Spirit was behind certain decisions. Some people get the impression that the decisions made are dictated by deals or sympathies. The faithful in many cases do not feel that they are participating in decision-making. The situation is similar among young people. They don’t like to be motivated with words; “You have to believe, because we believe too.” This does not convince them and, on the contrary, quickly discourages their spiritual search. Adults: parents, catechists, teachers, priests, often focus on theological words and concepts in the transmission of faith. What they lack is a personal experience that someone can confront with their own life. The element that can keep young people in the Church is an empathetic approach to them.
As the whole Church, we are invited to take responsibility for it. Not everyone understands this. There are laymen who don’t want to take this responsibility, but there are also clergy who don’t want to allow the faithful to co-determine and share responsibility. We recognize that in the community there are spaces inherently incumbent on the clergy, but there are many duties that can be successfully performed by lay people (in administrative, economic matters, etc.). More trust in the laity is needed. We see the need for greater cooperation between laity and clergy and clergy and laity. Clergy should coordinate parish activities rather than replace the faithful in what they can do on their own.
There is a need to change the approach of the clergy to the proposals and ideas of the laity in matters concerning the operation of the parish, not only in the dimensions of economics and management, but also in pastoral care. It is advisable to consult more widely and responsibly in advisory teams – at the diocesan level: pastoral council, economic council; at the parish level: parish council and economic council, or reorganization of councils where necessary.
To stimulate the faithful to take more responsibility for the affairs of the Church, more transparency in governance – both in economic and personnel matters – is needed. Transparency in church (parish) finances and the need for parishioners to have a say in economic matters are essential. There is a need to inform parishioners about expenditures, which will breed greater awareness among the faithful about the Church’s material needs.
“I pray for our parish, we have MARGARETS in the parish, attend services, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, pay what dues there are, and even personally collect dues, distribute formation materials, wafers, organize rosary circle activities, help and participate in pilgrimages and various meetings in the parish or diocese.”
- In the process of discerning and formulating decisions, prayer to the Holy Spirit and the help of the church community are necessary.
- Proper discernment cannot take place in solitude – individually and without community. In the process of discernment and for its confirmation, the decisive voice of the Church must be respected and honored.
- Pastoral decision-making serves to ensure spiritual unity and consistent evangelization activity. In this regard, obedience to the Ordinary of the place is decisive. Parish priests should take special care to implement the recommendations of the Metropolitan Archbishop in their parishes, as well as follow the announcements of the Metropolitan Curia.
- Efforts should be made to properly discern, each according to his or her competence, what should be done today and in the future to preserve and develop the faith and defend the Church. Discerning God’s will is a constant duty of every believer both in his individual life and in his family, evangelistic, professional and social life.
- Helping to intensify evangelization and pastoral activities is the use of the opportunities provided by the deanery, which is the right space for the complement of charisms and fosters cooperation between parishes.
- An aid to discerning the situation in which the Church lives is the use of newspapers, magazines and socio-religious books, as well as scientific research. Access to information from the life and teaching of the Church is used to help plan and discern current needs and evangelization tasks.
The fourth meetings were held primarily in March and April 2022. These included 2 groups of questions (see Appendix 1). Questions focused on issues of discernment and decision-making in the Church and synodality.
Almost universal acceptance was declared for the need for dialogue, conversation. However, in the submitted memos, there were systematic assertions about the need to limit the scope of discussion of the Church so that dogmatic issues are excluded from the discussion (“The Church should be synodal – open to change (but without changing dogmas) and development”). Similarly, the possibility of discussing issues of morality was also widely rejected. Only among certain groups of young people did the dissenting voices emerge – but these groups included the largest number of people from the so-called “youth”. peripherals.
From the notes presented, there was a clear picture of a community in which decisions are made by the parish priest, sometimes with the participation of a relatively small group of laymen (usually the parish council). Equally common, however, were voices that the parish priest should remain the decision-maker – listening, however, (in a well-understood dialogue) to the voice of the laity. Indeed, among the problems pointed out were, for example, a lack of transparency, among other things. in the area of finances (e.g., information about the results of ongoing fundraising) or the appointment of lay people who cooperate with the priest.
At the same time, one group of parish priests points out explicitly that “it would be good for synodal groups to get involved in parish life. From these people, for example, pastoral, parish councils can be formed.” And the demands being made for greater openness apply not only to priests, but, as a voice from one parish group points out, also to the laity: “the parish council should have an on-call service for those in need.”
In unison (though with very different words), it was emphasized that “synodality is not democracy” and that it should be understood as “walking together through life to salvation. It is the involvement and participation of all God’s people in the life and mission of the Church. It’s listening and engaging in dialogue that first builds up the local-parish community, and by extension, the whole Church. Synodality is the promotion of conversion processes by listening to each other. It’s to participate in the work of the Church, in church processes that involve as many of the baptized as possible and seek to change the mentality of the people. It’s also the common following of clergy and laity side by side. It’s about serving each other.”
There were also voices questioning whether the results of the meetings, especially the critical comments, would be passed on and reflected in the synthesis. There was also criticism in places about the wording of the questions – that they were too general, too theoretical. The issue of the Church’s credibility (in the context of various scandals) also came up in some groups – the need for priests, but especially bishops, to clearly and unequivocally address emerging issues.
The need to discern the “signs of the times” was expressed at the very beginning of the synodal work, when diocesan consultations were launched to determine the direction of the Synod. This truth is constantly reminded during synodal prayer, which is vividly present at various meetings in the diocese, in the daily prayer of many religious congregations, during monthly Synodal Sundays, in formation meetings of various communities, in diocesan radio broadcasts and in the individual prayers of the faithful. This prayer constantly reminds us that the Synod is God’s work, to which God has invited us and in this work leads us. Survey responses on discernment and decision-making strongly emphasized this truth. Otonie some of them: “As a community, we are constantly learning to recognize the signs of the times. Prayer is helpful in this,” and “a lot of prudence and wisdom is needed in making decisions recognizing the signs of the times.” There was also no shortage of responses that presented specific activities that resulted from such a reading of the signs of the times, such as: “a family pilgrimage along the trail of St. Francis of Assisi. The St. James shrine is growing, bringing people together more and more around the historical heritage of our shrine and the tradition of going to shrines.”
The following is a synthesis of the various synodal themes. We have largely given voice to the participants in the synod meetings. Their statements are shown in italics.
Some of the synodal questionnaires lacked a response to the indicated topic. Some of the participants in the synod meetings commented that they did not understand the issue and had no knowledge of it.
126.96.36.199 Description of reality
Participants in the synod meetings described their experience of discernment and decision-making in the parishes and pastoral communities where they meet as follows: I don’t know anything about it; None; I have no idea. Discernment in today’s world is not easy; The need for prayer, quiet and time, and all around is dominated by the rush, and we are part of that rush; It is necessary to convince the parish priest to listen to parishioners. I am not aware that the faithful of my parish have a say in decisions concerning the Church; Joint decisions on organizational matters. Participation in decision-making in communities depends on the ” regime” of the community; There is a lack of regularity in joint discernment and decision-making, we are dealing rather with episodes. This situation does not allow us to build a greater bond in the community; There is no place in the Church for the laity in causal and decision-making roles; There is a possibility of community discernment and decision-making at the parish level, but we do not feel that we have any influence on the decisions made at a higher level.
In the synod surveys, we encounter few concrete responses, and what follows probably also experiences of community discernment and decision-making. Such an image is probably a reflection of the reality of the church as seen from a parish perspective. Selected responses: We have proven ways of discernment in the Church, such as the method of St. Francis. The process of decision-making in a parish is done at the level of St. Ignatius Loyola; First of all during community prayer; Through participation in meetings, in the parish council; In a parish, the process is done at the level of the parish council; Ask the parish priest, and if he doesn’t answer, ask again; The decision-making process in a parish is as follows: proposal, prayer, discussion, joint decision-making, although the final vote belongs to the parish priest, and this is the right thing to do; In the community, we make decisions by voting; With the bishop, there should be councils of laity.
188.8.131.52 Conclusions and the future
The theme evoked is one of the least present realities in the Church community, especially at the parish level. Situations can be changed by the experience of meeting in smaller groups and communities and the proper functioning of parish councils.
In our Archdiocese, the question of what methods are used in decision-making has been met, for the most part, with great incomprehension. This shows how much we have to do to make sure that the decisions we make in our local church at the parish and diocesan level are made by really discerning what the Holy Spirit is saying through the whole community. Certainly, the work of the ongoing Synod has resulted in a greater awareness among the faithful of their role in the life of the Church. Various difficulties in our parishes and communities were highlighted that prevent the decision-making process from being truly synodal: for many, there is no assurance that the Holy Spirit is behind specific decisions; some have the impression that personal alignments and sympathies are decisive; the faithful, in most of the statements, do not feel co-responsible for the life of the parish because they do not participate in decision-making.
Lay faithful participating in the synodal work, as well as priests, stressed that in some parishes of our Archdiocese the methods used in decision-making are more monarchical than synodal. This course of action does not help to listen to God’s people.
In order to grow in common spiritual discernment, it is necessary, first of all, to revitalize already existing synodal structures in the Church, such as the pastoral council and the economic council, which often exist only “on paper” and have no concrete contribution to the life of the parish or diocese. They should be more efficient, look for new ways to listen to everyone’s voice. Emphasis was placed on ensuring that pastoral and economic councils include people who are active in the life of the parish community, including those from the “periphery” who can bring something new to parish ministry with their critical voice. The need to include a “female perspective” was pointed out, emphasizing that the voice of women on parish councils is important. It is also important that young people enter the councils. In addition, the need to promote financial transparency was expressed. It was stated that the pastor should reach out to lay professionals in economic and management fields and include them in the economic council.
From the synodal discussions of our local church, it was clear that there is no doubt that the final decision belongs to the bishop or pastor. But this decision must be the result of a synodal process and spiritual discernment of the entire community. It is not about introducing secular democracy into the Church, where the majority is right (many of the faithful fear that this could be an attempt to Protestantize the Church), but about an effective process of listening and discernment together. In this process, it is necessary to listen to God’s word together and pray to the Holy Spirit so that discernment takes place within a true community of believers. This is undoubtedly a challenge for our Archdiocese for the next few years.
Data in the surveys indicate that decisions in the communities are made in two ways: either the priest, leader, group animator decides, or they are the result of prayerfully supported conversations among community members. The faithful point out that most often there are no clear rules or principles for decision-making, hence many surveys do not answer the question about decision-making, or are off-topic. Another important issue of discernment and decision-making is the transparency of community and parish accounts. Surveys show that communities have their own billing procedures, while parishes have only some. In this case, the priest shall submit accounts of expenses. Most parishes, however, do not do this, and there are questions among the faithful about what a particular priest does with the money, and sometimes even suspicions of embezzlement. It should come as no surprise, then, that many people have no idea if and how parishes and communities are held accountable; additionally, the lack of a Parish Council in a parish raises suspicion about honest accounting of finances.
Depending on the environment in which we live, topics on the value of choosing a path are addressed in different ways. The main thread running through the conversations is that of material values, especially in non-church affiliated or non-formed circles. Topics related to spiritual values tend to be discussed in a smaller, trusted circle. In connection with values, the conclusion is that they should not be detached from reality, but interact with it, and certainly not remain at the level of mere talk or theory. The topic of vocation rarely comes up in conversations, as it should first and foremost be the subject of prayer, not debates with others. Our future is first and foremost linked to salvation, and it should be viewed in this perspective. However, there are no concrete answers to whether man’s plans are the same as God’s. There is an awareness and desire for human plans to merge with God’s design, but whether this is in fact the case is a difficult issue, requiring constant reflection and pondering of individual life decisions.
Responding to God’s call is a demanding thing, because what is needed beforehand is listening to God, not closing oneself off to Him. People often prefer to be deaf, not to enter into dialogue with God, they feel fear of Him. Hearing the voice of God is possible in prayer, the sacraments, reading Scripture, but also in ordinary, everyday life, through which God speaks. Vocation is the voice of God, calling us. It is the purpose of life, a plan, but inseparable from the existence of man. In hearing a vocation, it is helpful to open up to God in everyday situations, circumstances of life. It is God speaking to us that is the greatest help in discovering a vocation. That a person pursues a vocation can be known by the fruits – peace in the heart, a sense of happiness.
Failure to fulfill a vocation is evident from restlessness, the constant search for challenges, substitutes, attempts to find peace and happiness. Acting in one’s vocation for the Church plays an important role in its development.
In discovering a vocation, the Church supports through catechists, priests, spiritual directors, confessors or events such as vocation retreats. Recently also through the Internet and articles, conferences transmitted through it. God also works through various types of events. It is important that the Church, in matters of vocation, approaches people on an individual basis. For this reason, there can be no over-institutionalized forms of support for those discerning a vocation, this support should be in a face-to-face relationship with another person – a representative of the Church.
When choosing a life path, community support is important. It is also a good idea to encourage vocation discernment during confirmation preparation.
The Church is the community of all the baptized, the place of realization of faith, the embodiment of faith in practice, the family, the environment of relationship with God. A church in which a dialogue on vocation can be held must first of all be open to this dialogue. However, the dialogue is not with the Church, but within the Church, because we are all part of the Church. The Church should help you choose your life path. In discussing vocation, various groups are important: friends, family, confessor or spiritual director, but the most important is the dialogue with God. The greatest influence on the development of faith comes from: family, friends, retreatants, communities or other people you meet, testifying with their lives. The role of a spiritual companion is very necessary in discerning a vocation, because he can look at certain things from a distance. The Church ultimately confirms a vocation in several dimensions – in the case of those about to be ordained to the priesthood or take religious vows, their superiors confirm their readiness to enter the Church’s ministry. In the case of marriage, through the sacrament, which the spouses administer to each other in the presence of a priest.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit and reading the Word of God help discern what is currently needed and useful in the community. The key here is the willingness to stand in the truth and be open to change.
Discernment is hindered by over-activism – trusting in action and action, without deeper reflection on the needs in the parish. There is no conviction in many quarters that the synodal method is effective, hence it is urgent to point out the fruits of the synod to awaken synodal awareness in the Church. Some groups in the Church here even express concern that decisions made in a synodal manner could violate dogma and moral principles. Many clergy are distrustful of lay intentions when making decisions – there is a lack of consultation with the faithful. The lack of such consultation makes it unclear based on what criteria a parish priest makes decisions.
There needs to be a better flow of information between the bishop/pastor and the faithful – clear procedures need to be created to give the faithful the opportunity to participate in decision-making. It is necessary to start by fully activating the collegiate bodies provided for by church law. The passivity of the majority of the laity will not be broken without participation and shared responsibility for the operation of the parish. First and foremost, it is the parish pastoral council that should discern spiritual needs in the community.
The process of discernment at the parish and diocesan level should involve all groups that exist in the Church – all should be heard especially regarding decisions that affect them.
We priests must beat our breasts[…] We do not understand each other with the faithful.
Pastor of the city parish
In answering the question “How does the Church listen to the laity, especially women and young people?”, we looked at the makeup of our diocesan synod. There was only one woman in our sharing group, and the youngest members were between the ages of 30 and 40, all others were older men.
Participant in the diocesan synod
In my parish, I conducted an experiment. I organized a meeting with lay people. In small groups, the priests listened to the laity speak, but were not allowed to speak themselves. After the meeting, the vicars stressed how hard it was for them not to speak up. This shows that a priest, who is oriented towards his role as a shepherd and teacher, is often not ready to fully listen to the opinions of others.
Pastor of the city parish
None of the participants in our meeting knew that there was a diocesan pastoral council in the diocese. The composition of this body is not known to us. We also don’t know anything about the topics that are discussed at council meetings.
Faithful layperson from a rural parish
Synodal organizations in the local Church do not function. These are just facade institutions with nice names.
Faithful layperson from a rural parish
There is a lack of initiatives linking the Church with culture, civil society. The only institution deviating from this pattern is Caritas. The Church does not learn from its own mistakes. The church is associated with a very fossilized structure.
Voice from the decanal consultation meeting
* * *
The lay faithful complain that in some parishes pastors run away from contact with the faithful, avoid meetings, refuse to listen to their parishioners and participate in their daily lives and delegate responsibility to the laity. To justify this attitude, priests make the argument that the laity are too demanding and unprepared due to poor spiritual formation and lack of knowledge. Priests are focused on teaching others rather than listening to them. On the other hand, it is also not uncommon for lay faithful to withdraw and not want to get involved.
In the Church, therefore, it is necessary to try to enter into conversation honestly and courageously. The need for clergy and laity to listen to each other. For this purpose, it is necessary to have an appropriate forum to enable such communication. Such a place, providing the necessary conditions for people to meet and talk with each other in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, should exist in every parish. It was there, after Sunday Mass. The faithful could exchange thoughts and opinions with their pastors.
A natural forum for discussion is created by various groups, movements, communities and associations operating in parishes. However, their activity was severely curtailed during the pandemic, and many of them have not recovered to date.
The following were pointed out as practical tools for breaking down barriers and providing an opportunity for dialogue between clergy and laity: the pastor greeting people who come before the start of Mass, meeting and talking with the faithful after Mass, and providing all parishioners with a phone number for the pastor so that they can call him and talk if needed. It was also requested that during pastoral visits to parishes, the bishop should not only speak, but should try to listen to the voice of the faithful by creating a space conducive to frank conversation and discussion.
Difficult and sensitive topics must not be avoided in ongoing conversations and discussions in the Church. However, all participants in the conversation must take responsibility for their words. Statements should be sincere and bold. However, they must not be irresponsible. Besides, you can’t just stop at debating. This is because speaking up is also discouraged by the fact that it is not uncommon for everything in the Church to “end up just talking.” The conversation must lead to concrete changes, to solutions to the problems that are articulated in the course of the conversation. Explanations, answers and practical conclusions must not remain shallow or merely apparent. You always need to be able to get to the root of the problem and offer a concrete solution.
Authentic conversation and debate is not possible in too large a forum. The number of participants should be selected to allow everyone to speak and actively participate. If this condition is not met – and this happens at many church meetings – then there can be no real discussion. Although a small and knowledgeable group in principle should facilitate discussion, on the other hand, this is not always the case. Indeed, voices from small rural parishes signal that in such communities, the obstacle to getting involved and speaking out is a great fear of negative feedback from others and stigmatization.
The natural place for lay faithful to participate in the process of discernment and decision-making in the Church is the pastoral and economic councils established within parishes and at the diocesan level. However, these bodies, even if they actually exist, are not representative. There are too few lay faithful in diocesan bodies, especially women and young people. Parish councils, on the other hand, usually consist only of trusted individuals selected by the pastor. So real action must be taken to change this state of affairs. The composition of the council cannot be decided solely by the pastor. It should be a truly representative body, with members coming from all the towns or districts that make up the parish and from all age groups. Elections for parish councils should be made mandatory. The diocesan bishop should also define more precisely the prerogatives of parish councils. Clarify when the parish priest is required to convene the council and on what issues to consult it. It was also requested that the council be allowed to periodically give its opinion on the work of the pastor. Such an opinion should go both to the pastor himself and to the diocesan bishop, and perhaps to all parishioners.
Members of parish councils should receive proper formation so that they can properly carry out their tasks. There is also a need for parishes to exchange information on the operation of these boards.
List of synodal topics
W Kościele i w społeczeństwie jesteśmy na tej samej drodze, ramię w ramię.
Kiedy mówimy „nasz Kościół”, to kogo mamy na myśli? Kto w naszym Kościele „podąża razem”? Kto oczekuje, aby bardziej ku niemu wyjść i zaprosić go do wspólnej drogi wiary? Jakie osoby lub grupy są zaniedbane i nie objęte troską o to, by iść razem drogą wiary i stanowić jedną wspólnotę Kościoła?
Zestawienie odpowiedzi na te pytania zawarte w syntezach diecezjalnych.
Słuchanie jest pierwszym krokiem, ale wymaga otwartego umysłu i serca, bez uprzedzeń.
Czy umiemy słuchać siebie nawzajem w naszym Kościele? Czyj głos jest pomijany lub za mało słyszany? Z jakiego powodu? Czy potrafimy określić uprzedzenia i stereotypy, które utrudniają nam słuchanie innych? Czy z otwartym umysłem i sercem umiemy wsłuchiwać się w poglądy inne niż nasze; także osób spoza wspólnoty Kościoła?
Wszyscy są zaproszeni do mówienia z odwagą i zaufaniem, to znaczy łącząc wolność, prawdę i miłość.
Czy w Kościele nasz/mój głos ma znaczenie i czy znajdujemy przestrzeń do wypowiedzi i bycia wysłuchanym? Czy czujemy, że przemawiający w naszym imieniu faktycznie reprezentują także nas? Jaki mamy na to realny wpływ?
„Wspólna droga” jest możliwa tylko wtedy, gdy opiera się na wspólnotowym słuchaniu Słowa Bożego i sprawowaniu Eucharystii.
Czy liturgiczne celebracje i doświadczenie wspólnotowej modlitwy w naszym Kościele mają realny wpływ na moją/naszą praktykę codziennego życia: decyzje, wybory, inspiracje? Czy czujemy się zaproszeni do czynnego (praktycznego) zaangażowania w liturgię, czy też pozostawia nam się rolę „widza”? Czy sami pielęgnujemy w sobie pragnienie zaangażowania? Czy przeżywanie liturgii umacnia i motywuje mnie/nas do podjęcia misji ewangelizacji?
Synodalność służy misji Kościoła, do udziału w której powołani są wszyscy jego członkowie.
Czy mamy świadomość, że jako ochrzczeni wszyscy jesteśmy powołani do misji ewangelizowania? Co nas hamuje w podejmowaniu tej misji i wspieraniu w niej innych: w nas samych, w środowisku życia, we współczesnej kulturze?
Dialog wymaga wytrwałości i cierpliwości, ale umożliwia także wzajemne zrozumienie.
W jaki sposób w naszym Kościele rozwiązywane są konflikty i trudności wynikające z różnicy poglądów, dążeń, oczekiwań? Czy dialog jest naszym sposobem wychodzenia z tych problemów? Jak w tym kontekście wygląda współpraca różnych instytucji, organizacji i ruchów kościelnych? Czy umiemy uczyć się form dialogu od instytucji niekościelnych? Czy dialog jest również przestrzenią naszego spotkania z wyznawcami innych religii i zniewierzącymi?
Dialog między chrześcijanami różnych wyznań, zjednoczonymi przez jeden chrzest,
zajmuje szczególne miejsce na drodze synodalnej.
Jakie relacje ma nasza wspólnota kościelna z członkami innych tradycji chrześcijańskich i wyznań? Co nas łączy i jak razem podążamy? Jakie owoce przyniosło nam wspólne podążanie? Jakie są trudności? Jak możemy zrobić następny krok we wspólnym podążaniu naprzód?
Kościół synodalny jest Kościołem uczestniczącym i współodpowiedzialnym.
Kto w naszym Kościele podejmuje decyzje i czego one dotyczą? Czy jest to wyłącznie forma indywidualnego przewodniczenia czy jest też w tym wymiar wspólnotowy? Czy istnieje współpraca zespołowa i czy w tym kontekście promowane jest zaangażowanie świeckich, np. w radach duszpasterskich i ekonomicznych, w kierowaniu wspólnotami? Czy jesteśmy gotowi podjąć się współodpowiedzialności za podejmowane decyzje i działania?
Na drodze synodalnej podejmujemy decyzje poprzez rozeznawanie tego, co Duch Święty mówi przez całą naszą wspólnotę.
Jak rozumiemy to, że Kościół jest hierarchiczny a nie demokratyczny? Czy w tak zorganizowanym Kościele widzimy miejsce dla wspólnego rozeznawania i podejmowania decyzji całego ludu Bożego wraz z pasterzami? Jak możemy wzrastać we wspólnotowym rozeznawaniu duchowym?
Synodalność pociąga za sobą otwartość na zmiany, formację i ciągłe uczenie się.
Jak formowane są osoby, zwłaszcza te, które pełnią odpowiedzialne funkcje we wspólnocie chrześcijańskiej, aby były bardziej zdolne do słuchania i dialogu, rozeznawania? Czy mamy świadomość odpowiedzialności za własną nieustanną formację do odpowiedzialności i misji ewangelizacyjnej w Kościele?