A parish synthesis from the parish of St. Andrzej Bobola in Warsaw
A parish synthesis from the parish of St. Andrzej Bobola in Warsaw
The consultation process in the parish went as follows. Parishioners were informed about the Synod through parish announcements, Father Pastor’s encouragement to participate announced at Mass, extensive consultation in parish communities and groups, in the parish pastoral council, in schools located in the parish by catechists, through an online and paper survey, and at three open synod meetings in the parish. As our parish church is a national sanctuary and for many Varsovians it is the church of choice, both the voices of parishioners and people from other parishes and often from other cities such as students – members of the academic ministry – were collected.
Examples of statements:
“the parish is characterized by diversity – there are different communities operating, with different offerings, everyone can find each other, groups are profiled for people who want to get involved; in my opinion, this is heading in the right direction; there are fewer and fewer excluded groups;”
“A church that is open to the signs of the times – for example, now to welcome refugees,” he said. “I can participate in sacramental life, there are sacraments celebrated, especially confessions, and I am glad that there is a schedule and you can have a regular confessor even if you don’t have a spiritual guide.”
“weekday masses celebrated in the morning every half hour from hrs. 7 to 9”
“Gratitude to God for being in such a parish where I feel comfortable being an LGBT person. Here on the spot I have never experienced hurtful words from priests, etc., and this happens in the universal Church;”
“We appreciate the great openness to the various initiatives of the laity that fall within the broad spectrum of the practice of the faith, as well as the general friendliness. We feel good here.”
Those who participated in the consultation expressed gratitude for many aspects of the parish’s operations and for the attitude of the Jesuits, their openness to lay initiatives and meeting the needs of the faithful.
Statement by LGBT people attending synod meeting:
“Their voice should resound – they are invited into the community, they can serve with their gifts, and often fall victim to stereotyping, stigmatization. LGBT people lack a safe space in the Church, not least because of the closure of Church people, not just priests. The situation for LGBT people is improving under the pontificate of Pope Francis. Marginalized people can be in the Church, they just don’t admit it, we need to make more space for them.”
“the statements of some hierarchs regarding the LGBT people are very painful (vide Archbishop Jędraszewski) – and such a person will leave the Catholic Church and seek another church and be separated from the sacraments;”
“I would not want anyone in my Church to use the phrase that LGBT people/ideology is a rainbow plague. To be such a person on the margins of the Church is to be a renegade, on the verge of heresy […] More pastoral care is needed for such people.
In my opinion, it is scandalous that after confession one gets a card in the confessional with the address where one can go for conversion therapy, and this is happening in the 21st century – it should not be like this.”
The statements of LGBT people were a particularly strong, meaningful and moving point of the consultation marked by sadness, suffering due to homosexual sexual orientation. There have also been tensions arising from different understandings of the moral aspect of homosexual sexual orientation and the possibility of changing orientation, e.g. through medical treatment.
“Listening to me is hindered by my negative attitude towards my disability-related suffering only in the community do I feel understood.”
This is a statement from a blind person who has experienced rejection in the Church and difficulty entering the community because of concerns about whether the community will be able to accept and care for such a person.
Statements from young people that were collected by catechists:
“I just go to church, I don’t know why.”
What good does the Church give me: Confession, Teaching how to live beautifully, Love, Faith, Service, Belief that there is someone who loves me unconditionally and does everything for me. There is a solemn atmosphere in the church and you can feel the closeness of God. The Church organizes my spiritual life. He teaches me how to be good, Very often he helps me in difficult life situations.”
“I don’t go to church.”
“I don’t want to go to the Church because I don’t like many of the things the Church does.”
“I don’t go to church because my whole family doesn’t attend church, and I don’t have that personal need myself with my faith.”
Statements of young people on the topic of “The Church of My Dreams”
“No pedophilia, no taking money from the poor, especially in villages where only money counts, Asylum for those in need of help.”
“I wish there were picnics and festivals like they used to be, the priest who led the altar boys used to play ball with us.”
“it would be nice if there was something for young people between Confirmation and college” The statements of young people indicate that some people have a foothold in the Church and enter into a deeper experience of encounter with God, while this experience is not universal. Some young people don’t see what good the Church can give them, they don’t have the experience of a relationship with God and are unable to learn about the beauty of this relationship during catechesis or preparation for the sacraments. Such young people, influenced by media reports about the Church, become hostile to it and, unless they are effectively evangelized, may not return to it.
“We often try to discuss arguments without referring to the experience of God. We are just trying to convince you to be right. Talking about God is often left to priests, because we have the conviction that we are not competent. When we preach, we talk more about faith than we share our experience.”
“In the baptized, there is no idea that he has any mission. Relationships give a sense of responsibility and this gives a sense of mission. Let’s not tell people about God.”
“Some sermons, on the other hand, are too theological. They don’t relate to real life, or too heavy language is used. The language used by priests is often very difficult.”
These statements ring out a certain weakness in the Church’s teaching – in sermons, catechesis, or preparation for the sacraments – theoretical statements about faith, calls to believe and practice unsupported by sharing about the relationship and encounter with the living God. Life testimony is much more effective than theoretical statements.
Participants in the consultation stressed the importance of the Synod and how groundbreaking it was for them to feel that the Church wanted to listen to them.
“This is the best initiative the Church has introduced – inviting local communities to the synod.”
“The Church’s invitation to everyone to dialogue. I have a sense of subjectivity. Thank you for allowing me to talk with you about what is important to me. That’s why this synod is important to me.”
“Until recently, it was unthinkable for me to have an impact on the church. The power “somewhere out there,” i.e. Papacy, some bishops.”
“If I am an anonymous member of the Church, I neither have the desire nor feel that I have the right to speak. One talks with friends. Communication is made possible by the relationship.
Obstacles: fear; communities firmly built on the authority of the priest; a highly polarized media.”
“It is rare for people who have different experiences in their daily lives to meet in one place to pray together, for example. There are few spaces where dialogue can take place. Little access for the average busy person. A man of average involvement in the life of the Church tends to avoid dialogue and pastoral visits.”
“Many ordinary people who come to church once a week have a sense of distance, tension, lack of knowledge of what to talk about. When you see a person once a year, it’s hard to open up. There is a lack of outreach to “ordinary parishioners.” In large centers, where several thousand people belong to a parish, there is no sense of community. The average believer does not know how or where to speak up in the Church. In pastoral care, yes, and even if at a higher level, he only speaks out on local issues. Even when he wants to talk, I don’t have time to do it. Anonymity makes it difficult to speak up.”
There were also many negative opinions about the synodal questions and the language in which the Synod guidelines were formulated. Despite attempts to simplify and customize the questions for parishioners, they still complained that they were too difficult, abstract and incomprehensible.
” operates with an extremely complex linguistic code accessible (almost) only to educated people and/or those who work with words on a daily basis and are proficient with abstract concepts. On the literal layer, it devotes a lot of space to the themes of mutual listening and dialogue, while due to the language used, it does not facilitate communication. “
“by its very nature, it fundamentally reduces the audience, potentially able and willing to fill it.”
“The survey operates at a high level of generality and uses vocabulary not found in everyday language. To put it colloquially, it is ‘highfalutin’, detached from life and the problems I face and my relationship with the parish.”
An important ministry is the monthly Mass at the Shrine combined with prayer for healing and intercessory prayer practiced in the communities. Intercessory prayer has been appreciated as a form of listening to those who ask for prayer.
“I see an urgent need for the ministry of distributing the Eucharist to the elderly, the disabled, the sick by ministers. They could receive the Lord Jesus more often than once a month. How important it is to receive the true Christ more often.”
In this statement, as well as in many of the following ones, the need and desire for greater involvement of the laity in sacramental ministry resounds.
SHARED RESPONSIBILITY IN OUR COMMON MISSION
The idea was raised to intensify the evangelization mission to the terminally ill and the elderly. “It’s worth fostering the desire to learn about God through spiritual conversation, shared reading or prayer. It is worthwhile for the priest, visiting the sick and dying alike in ministry in the hospital, hospice or at home, to be supported by lay people. These activities should not only be aimed at practicing parishioners, but should also be open to those who are seeking God.”
The idea of using the mourning process and funeral services as a space to evangelize and reach out to people who are outside the Church is noteworthy.
“At the Mass. funeral gather a variety of people – believers and non-believers, practicing and non-practicing – all united in their desire to say goodbye to the deceased and pay respect to their loved ones. For an hour or two, they form a community that bears witness to the love of neighbor and brings comfort to each other. What image of the Church those attending the funeral, often only occasionally associated with the Church, will leave with depends on how the Good News is preached and how the ceremony is conducted. It also depends on how the funeral attendees will be treated by the Church community – whether it will be open to them or oriented only to ‘their own,’ whether they will see not only Jesus the Merciful, but also witnesses to Jesus.”
This statement indicates the mourning process and the Mass. funeral parlor as a place that can be used for evangelization especially since both church-affiliated and non-practicing people come to it. Suggestions were made for specific actions in this regard, such as the creation of a support group or a permanent duty station for bereaved people, or a monthly Mass. For the deceased and those in mourning, with the possibility of agape (for those willing)
DIALOGUE IN CHURCH AND SOCIETY
“There is a lack of outreach to non-believers who criticize the Church. There is a lack of listening. One imposes one’s conviction in advance, instead of listening to a person and getting to know what he comes with, what his opinions, his lack of faith are based on. Need to listen to each other, and less moralizing and treatment from above. Neglected areas: going out to people who have not met the Lord God, to those who have different views. Going out to them with open ears, eyes, heart.”
“At the detailed level, the Polish Church lacks a touch on issues that are difficult and also discussed in the Universal Church. What is the relationship between the indications of Pope Francis and the Polish Episcopate, as well as the Episcopates of other countries. Where actually is my Church, what Church do I belong to, which Church should I identify with, is it one Church? I am referring primarily to the lack of reference to the discernment in conscience of the possibilities raised in the Encyclical by P. Francis
joining communion in situations of non-sacramental union, or allowing contraception in marriage in some countries and not in others. We feel dissonance about the silence on these issues in Poland, even if they do not directly relate to our lives.”
“If a priest speaks out, his voice is taken as the voice of the whole Church, even if it is not in accordance with doctrine – often it is the same people. You also see little in the way of comments straightening out erroneous statements made by priests speaking in public. There is the problem of “church showmen” who speak up when a topic comes up, and it is unknown what the Church’s position is on the subject. The opinion of “church people” does not always agree with the Church. It hurts that people believe this.”
“I don’t like the fact that the Church doesn’t straighten out certain things in public discourse.”
These statements speak to the need of the faithful for the Church to speak with one and firm voice, not to be divided in its statements, which creates confusion and anxiety among the people.
“The simplest recipe for different communities to dialogue with each other is to do joint initiatives, such as this Synod or charitable initiatives, etc.”
This statement confirms the fruitfulness of inter-community initiatives, which is also manifested in our parish in inter-community cooperation, for example, in charitable actions or in the Parish Council.
POWER AND PARTICIPATION
“Women don’t have a proper place in the Church, they don’t want to talk about certain topics with priests. A priest is a specific person who has no family. The Church is not uniform in access for women; not all dioceses have agreed to have female altar servers. A woman learns that contact with the Church can be through nuns or she can sing in the choir, although there are more women than men in most communities. What is needed is more exposure of the role of women in the Church, giving them positions in the Church, including them in opinion-making bodies, assigning them key tasks.”
The topic of inadequate information and encouragement for women for ministries during the liturgy was raised many times during the meetings. There is insufficient information on recent appointments to the ministry of lectorate and acolyte. There are also encountered manifestations of clergy hostility to women’s ministry and prohibition of such ministry.
“But I still experience that decisions are in the hands of the evangelical pastor. with little influence from the parish council, but the laity has no power. He may complain higher up, but in general in the
parishes have no voice unless they agree with the pastor. Bottom line: no such experience at the local level.”
There were statements during the consultations that parishioners have too little knowledge of how the parish functions, how the Parish Council works and how “ordinary parishioners” can get involved in the work of the parish.
DISCERNMENT AND DECISION-MAKING
The possibility of formation in Ignatian spirituality in the parish, especially learning spiritual discernment and participating in Ignatian retreats, was appreciated.
FORMATION IN SYNODALITY
“We are very poorly taught, there is a lack of any training – permanent catechesis.”
This voice came despite the wide availability in the parish and at the Bobolanum College of lectures, catechesis and retreats on faith, spirituality, prayer and liturgy. Paradoxically, despite the wide availability of spirituality-related content, such as on the Internet, there is still a sense that there is too little of it, or that it is too inaccessible and unattractive to people more loosely connected to the Church.