Parish synthesis from the parish of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vozuczyn.
Toward a synodal church: communion, participation and mission
Synod on synodality
Parish of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wozuczyn
- The Synodal Consultation Meetings at the parish of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vozuczyn were held in three sessions. The first of these was held
December 5, 2021. pt. “Listening – Speaking – Celebrating”. The second took place on December 12, 2021. and its motto was: “Mission – Dialogue – Ecumenism.” The third and final session was held on January 9, 2022. and was called “Authority and Synodality.” A total of 35 people participated in all sessions of synodal work at the parish level. They worked in 4 small groups, one of which was an older youth group, while the other three consisted of adults. This synthesis is a compilation of all the conclusions of each group from all sessions. To structure the content, the proposals were divided into three blocks, according to the theme of each session.
Session 1 – Listening – Speaking – Celebrating.
- The Church is a community of baptized people who believe in Jesus Christ. It should be recognized that the religious consciousness of people remaining in the Church continues to grow and deepen. Nevertheless, we are dealing with many groups of remote people. These include, for example, the elderly and single, divorced people and their children, those in non-sacramental relationships, those experiencing various personal tragedies, the uneducated or young people caught up in addictions. On top of that, we still have many Catholics who practice the faith only for the sake of broad tradition, which does not bring with it the need to deepen their spiritual life.
- Because of the people who remain, so to speak, on the sidelines of the Church, the listening space in our communities is very important. However, it is difficult to find it when we have an attitude of judging others and lack of humility amongpeople confined only to a Catholic environment, who often feel “better” than others. The exaltation of Catholics, attending Mass more often, over other people is a problem that makes it difficult for distant people to return to the Church. Hence, believers need to focus more on patiently listening to remote or marginalized groups.
- The problem of listening to others is also evident in the clergy circle. Moreover, the Synod itself seems to be a somewhat belated response by the Church to listen to the opinions of the laity about the Church community. Blatant to the faithful are behaviors evident in many parishes, such as the lack of acceptance of a person; failure to admit one’s mistakes; attempts by superiors to cover up the evil deeds of priests; preaching one’s subjective views instead of official Church teaching; failure to behave appropriately in a given circumstance (e.g., at the liturgy of funerals); reading out people who have not offered sacrifices or failing to continue initiatives already begun when changing priests in a parish.
Certainly sin should be condemned, but never man. The ministry of priests should therefore be more guided by love in their attitude toward their parishioners, and especially during the administration of services (especially confessions). Love for parishioners is often built by small, simple, ordinary gestures.
- The undisputed guides of local communities are bishops and parish priests. However, it is necessary to allow more “speaking” space in the Church for lay people, so that in this way every believer feels that his or her voice counts and is important. Such an opportunity is provided, for example, by the activities of parish councils and active participation in parish groups or evangelization programs. However, it would be worth considering the creation of platforms (including electronic ones) in each parish that would give people who remain on the sidelines the opportunity to anonymously share their requests or opinions about the functioning of the parish. Parishioners should also have a real, not fictional, influence on the approval of their pastors in parishes.
- However, it should be remembered that the primary learning environment for “speaking”
and proper communication is every family. Believers should strengthen relationships
in their families by creating deeper bonds based on basic communication, i.e. the ability to talk about their feelings and experiences, while limiting the focus on social media, television and the Internet.
- The source and summit of Christian life is the Eucharist. Its celebration should take place in every parish at the highest possible level. The practice of adoration prayer is also an expression of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It is the fervent wish of the faithful that frequent and regular adoration of the Blessed Sacrament be possible in many parishes.
Unfortunately, however, a number of shortcomings are also evident in the celebration of the sacraments. Unpalatable are the phenomena of priests negligently celebrating Masses, the lack of proper respect for the Body and Blood of the Lord (this applies to both priests and laity), or the issue of setting “price tags” for the administration of the sacraments. The state of the lay faithful’s knowledge of liturgical music is also saddening.
- In order for religious life among the faithful in parishes to deepen, the need for “openness” to other parishes and their “offerings” is also apparent. It would be necessary to improve communication in this regard, so that every believer can be properly informed about various inter-parish and diocesan pastoral undertakings and actions (e.g., Exodus of Youth, seminars, retreats, worship concerts, pilgrimages, etc.).
Session 2 – Mission – Dialogue – Ecumenism.
- Every Christian is sent on a mission to preach the Gospel. This task is accomplished most fully, first and foremost, by witnessing one’s own life and following Jesus.
From this comes the pressing need to re-establish the role of authorities these days. Also, one of the most basic manifestations of the mission of every baptized person is to participate fully in the Eucharist and to give aid to those in need.
- Undertaking a mission by any baptized person is extremely difficult these days. Many factors contribute to the lack of involvement in the Church. What is apparent is the pervasive conformism that causes people to stop thinking for themselves and follow the so-called “socialist”. “crowd.” Among the community, laziness and convenience have been humbled, numbing the need for sacrifices in life. The pursuit of money and wealth has overshadowed other values. Human relationships are often limited to the virtual world only. The phenomenon of migration also has a very negative impact on parishioners’ involvement in the life of their communities. Nor does the media’s vilification of the Church, as well as the apparent lack of unity within the Church itself or among priests, help in the mission of Catholics. The shallow and superficial faith of many Catholics also makes them not even feel the need to take responsibility for the Church and its mission.
- The priority task of the Church in such an outlined context seems to be the pastoral care of marriages, families and young people, as these groups are beginning to be in short supply in the Church. The family is the primary place for the development of a young person, and parents are the first witnesses of faith for the child. Hence the pressing need to organize marriage and family communities in parishes. Special care should also be given to divorced persons, fostering an atmosphere of understanding and greater respect for their attitude of remaining faithful to the Church.
- Young people want to feel needed in the parish. So despite the current difficulties, it is necessary to continue working with youth and children. It is worth organizing special formation groups for them in parishes , Masses with children, as well as various pilgrimages, cultural trips and integration and entertainment meetings. Young people are also eager to join in the works of volunteerism, so it is worth organizing various charity events. Singing and music are also very good spaces for the formation of children and young people. All of this can bring more joy and spirit of praise to God in the Church.
- Dialogue is a space for understanding with other people. The key in it is patience, kindness and openness in approaching the other person. The Church too often seems quite “pumped up” and aloof. So it is necessary to change the internal attitude towards other people to be more friendly. However, this does not mean that the Church has stopped making demands in times of widespread convenience. Perhaps it would be appropriate to
for this reason, further increase the requirements for those preparing to receive the various sacraments, even at the expense of giving up some of them. However, this will most likely prevent the introduction of the so-called “”new” into the Church. “practicing non-believers.”
- Dialogue with people distant from the Church is undoubtedly also hampered by the low state of religious knowledge of people remaining in the Church. Unfortunately, believers often have too little knowledge of Scripture, the catechism, the Church’s teaching – and because of this it is very difficult for them to engage in constructive dialogue. Priests should therefore do their best to teach the faithful the basics of the faith, which may seem obvious to them, but not necessarily to people anymore.
This is emphatically not encouraged by so-called ecclesiastical language. The sermons preached by priests are sometimes so theological that they do not reach the minds and hearts of the faithful at all. Thus, homilies should be preached in language that is simple and understandable to all people, while explaining the most basic issues of faith. This state of affairs is evidenced even by the synodal questions, which were formulated in such abstruse language that many found it incomprehensible.
It is also worth noting that in the current situation, the abandonment of pastoral visits, the so-called “carols,” is also not conducive to seeking dialogue with people.
- Despite the many differences, there are many factors that unite all followers of Christ. Steps must be taken to unite Christians. First, there needs to be a willingness to dialogue from both sides, able to listen to others. Developing the practice of synodality in the Catholic Church also serves to better relations with other followers of Jesus.
Catholics should also strongly support missionaries and lay people who go on missions. They should be helped spiritually and materially, with a sense of responsibility for the entire universal Church.
Session 3 – Authority and synodality
- Each parish church is, in a sense, a wealth of distinct history and tradition. Therefore, the responsibility for the parish really lies with all parishioners living in the area at a particular time.
- In order for any parish to achieve its goals, the commitment of parishioners and their financial support are needed. Above all, however, good relations are necessary
in the parish. What builds an atmosphere of great trust between the pastor and the faithful is, among other things, the openness of financial management.
- Undoubtedly, the most important role in developing parish synodality is played by the Parish Council. It serves as an advisory and support team to the Pastor of each parish. A supportive role for any pastor is also played by any church groups and movements active in the parish.
- The Parish Council is of great importance to the parish, hence it should have a real impact on the life of the parish. Unfortunately, in many parishes in our diocese it functions only “on paper.”
Another problem with the functioning of Parish Councils in our diocesan Church is also that membership does not involve anything attractive at all. Sometimes councilors are treated merely as people to help collect offerings or distribute wafers. They often face unkindness from other parishioners. This is because the function of a councilor is not properly valued in many places. When this position is more appreciated, both by parishioners and by parish priests themselves, the prestige of the Parish Council will undoubtedly grow.
- However, each member of the Parish Council has a great responsibility. This is because he is a representative of his local community from a particular village or township. Parish councilors do not always agree on their decisions with all residents.
Meetings of Parish Councils should be frequent and regular. The composition of the councils in the parishes of our diocese should be more diverse in terms of age, gender, education or profession. New members should be sought and young and ambitious people should be opened up. Parish councilors should also have the opportunity for personal formation by attending various courses and seminars. Parishioners should also be informed about the Council’s activities.
- Synodality is also underdeveloped at the diocesan level. The paradox of ecclesiastical reality is that it has at its disposal many synodal tools and methods that are provided by canon law, and yet – it does not use them. Using our diocese as an example, it is astonishing, for example, that in the 30 years of its existence, only one diocesan synod has been convened so far. Given the dynamically changing world, it is surprising that bishops are unwilling to listen to the voice of their faithful at the beginning of their episcopal ministry, for example. As a result, decisions often seem misguided, as other competent people are too rarely allowed to speak,
and resolutions are made within a narrow circle of people – unfortunately, often with a sycophantic attitude toward their superiors.
Diocesan synods, made up of representatives of clergy, consecrated people and laity, should be held more frequently and regularly, since every diocese has its own peculiarities and problems – ours included. The course of such synodal events should be simple, concise and to the point – without unnecessary media publicity and structural expansions that only further add to the phenomenon of “ossification” of the Church.
- We entrust the fruits of the synodal work in the Parish of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vozuczyn to the Holy Mother of God, Mother of the Redeemer – Patroness of our Diocese.
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